Before this gig was announced, I had not seen Manic Street Preachers live. I guess I have had plenty of chances to and just missed them. I guess it only occurred to me earlier this year how much of their material I liked. I remember when their ‘Postcards From A Young Man’ album came out; I was blown away by how good the lead singles off it were. Anyway, over the summer they made appearances at a number of UK festivals (the V Festivals, Isle of Wight and iTunes Festival if memory serves me correctly) and I really wanted to go and see them but financially it was not sensible (I could have made the Saturday at one of the V festival’s when they played but they didn’t realise any additional day tickets for that day). As the summer drew to a close, they were promoted to the list of bands I had to see before I stop going to gigs. I’m pretty sure just after I had promoted them in my mind, they announced this gig.
It was going to be a mammoth task without doubt. Quite a lot of headline bands will play 90 minute sets with some playing 2 hours. Rarely does a band play longer than 2 hours (I’ve seen Paul McCartney, Dream Theater and Bon Jovi play longer but it is still not a frequent occurrence). Now, as I’ve never seen Manics before, I don’t know how long they usually play but I feel fairly safe in saying this gig – playing all 38 of their singles - was a gargantuan and ambitious task. With that in mind, it was impossible to not get more and more excited about this gig coming up as the 17th of December got closer. This not only being the first time I would be seeing Manic Street Preachers, but to see them play all their singles was something I couldn’t wait for. If anything, this has the potential to be the perfect Manic Street Preachers gig to go to as they wouldn’t leave out singles they (or others) don’t like and I wouldn’t be able to say “I loved it but it would have been better if they played...” etc.
The show was due to start at 7.30pm so I went to take my seat around 7. I figured if I waited until later, there could be a rush and I might miss something. I didn’t take into account the band would be late on stage but they were (only by 20 minutes mind so nothing crazy). They took to the stage and kicked off by apologising for being late and played ‘You Stole The Sun From My Heart’ which set the tone for this gig as it was excellent. The strong start to the set continued with ‘Love’s Sweet Exile’, ‘Motorcycle Emptiness’ and ‘(It’s Not War) Just The End Of Love’. The stage show was very impressive as well. It was made up of Christmassy articles on stage with a big screen behind them, showing either the band performing on stage, classic Manic Street Preachers footage or clips from music videos. From early on in the set and throughout the whole gig, James Dean Bradfield and Nicky Wire just showed how much chemistry they have – not just by being in a band together but with the in-between song banter. During the first set, the band introduced special guest Gruff Rhys who sang with the band on ‘Let Robeson Sing’. Concluding the first set with ‘Indian Summer’, ‘Stay Beautiful’ and ‘If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next’, the band left the stage. The first set was great but what made it all the more better was knowing that there was another 19 songs left to be played. It was at this stage that I noticed the young-ish girl in front of me had fallen to sleep. Quite how is beyond me but there we are!
After a short break, it was time for the second set. Starting with ‘Australia’, the first half of the second set contained ‘Found That Soul’, ‘Some Kind Of Nothingness’, ‘You Love Us’ and the Theme from MASH – ‘Suicide Is Painless’. Before introducing the next song, Revol, the band reminisced about Richey Edwards and talked about how he came up with the lyrics for the song:
"We were in Portugal at this festival until about 2am in the morning and Richey peaked too early. He was f**king smashed eating a kiwi fruit and he goes: 'I've got an amazing lyric; it's about group sex in the Kremlin'. I said: 'Sounds like a winner to me', so here we go."
A funny moment followed ‘Roses In The Hospital’. Bradfield was introducing the next song and talked about the next song by saying “I don’t think that anyone here really liked this song!” Bradfield’s view was proved correct on this matter when the reaction to the song was lukewarm. From there though, it was a 6 song salvo of immense songs with ‘Postcards From A Young Man’, ‘Your Love Alone Is Not Enough’ (with special guest Nina Persson), ‘Slash ‘n’ Burn’, ‘Tsunami’, the very first single ‘Motown Junk’ and finally ‘A Design For Life’. As the set came to a conclusion there was confetti and fake snow firing all over the place. A strong end to an amazing set which to the bands credit did not flag or get boring at all. A mammoth task completed by one of the best bands to come from Wales, if not the very best. This was the last show Manic Street Preachers are doing in this country for at least two years they said, so what a way for them to go out. They were on superb form throughout the entire 3 hour + gig. The press release from the band before the gig promised us this:
"To celebrate the release of 'National Treasures', the band will play a unique, once in a lifetime Christmas party at the O2 in London on 17th December. The band promise “Glitter, glamour, special guests and a ticker-tape celebration. A never to be repeated one-off visual experience encompassing 21 years of MSP with 38 songs – from 1990’s ‘Motown Junk’ to (but not in order!) 2011’s ‘The Is The Day’. There will be an interval in order to top up on refreshments and like all the best parties, you’ll talk about it for years to come and your friends will wish they’d been there"
It goes without saying, they succeeded. This was truly an unforgettable gig.