Gig review: Manic Street Preachers/Cherry Ghost
Edinburgh Corn Exchange, December 3, 2007
If there's such a thing as the 'indie-survivor', then the two bands from the nineties who truly survived, against the odds, are The Charlatans and The Manic Street Preachers. The latter literally talked up a 'Live Fast Die Young Stay Beautiful' type manifesto when they first burst onto the scene, but like the Charlies, they are still making records, still keeping many fans, and still a big live draw.
Which is more than I think is ever going to be said for Cherry Ghost. This is the sixth time I have seen the Manics live over the last ten years, and support acts have included Catatonia (long before Cerys did Celebrity), The Delays, Ian Brown and The Departure. All acts I enjoyed, but Cherry Ghost are just bland. There's nothing to love or hate about them, they're just this year's Athlete.
With over thirty Top Forty Hits to their name, the Manics have no shortage of crowd pleasers up their collective sleeves. It might seem a gamble to start off with 'Motorcycle Emptiness,' but they've certainly done it before when I've seen them. The cynical might argue that it's because no-one knows the new stuff, but that's not true either. When they launch into 'Your Love alone Is Not Enough' it may be missing the vocals of Nina Peerson, but the crowd to their best to compensate. This year's Send Away The Tigers genuinely is the return to form that's been waited for for ten years.
As well as the line-up of Bradfield, Wire and Moore, they are joined by another guitarist and a multi-instrumentalist, who adds particularly effective saxophone to 'Ocean Spray' and 'Kevin Carter.' The former is one of their most heart-wrenching songs, and a reminder that when they put out their greatest hits album five years ago (and two studio albums ago, if anyone's counting) that there were many great songs that had to get left off. The same could be said for other songs like 'Roses In the Hospital Bed' which makes an appearance early on tonight. It's also good to hear '1985' from Lifeblood, which seems to have become the runt of their back catalogue, but still had some gorgeous songs.
The band have a soft spot for Edinburgh, where Nicky Wire informs us was the first place they ever flew to (and for once, they don't bitch about a certain Edinburgh record shop which refused to stock their early records), before they launch into 'You Love Us.' We also get 'Slash 'n Burn' and a teasing bit of The Cult's She Sells Sanctuary.
One of the highlights of the set is a solo version from James of 'Theme from M*A*S*H (Suicide Is Painless)', which is stripped down to just voice and acoustic guitar, before he gives us 'The Everlasting.'
Dammit, just how many great songs have the Manics got in their back catalogue? Loads, it would seem, and as they finish with 'A Design for Life' the passion remains. The feather boas may have quietly disappeared, Richey's ghost still lingers (and they dedicate 'Yes' to him) but as a live draw, on this form, I'll be going to catch the Manic Street Preachers for some time to come.
Manic Street Preachers -'Theme From MASH Suicide Is Painless.' mp3
Manic Street Preachers -'Your Love Alone Is Not Enough.' mp3