Manic Street Preachers at Barrowlands, 8/12/14

Up until a few weeks ago Manic Street Preachers had never played The Holy Bible in its entirety.

That was in rehearsals, and the fact seemed to make sense; with its spine-tingling spoken word intros and its general aura of decay and destruction, it seemed the album was a body of work destined to exist only on CD or vinyl, those 13 tracks would only ever lay side by side on the record itself.

Then Nicky Wire had an idea (doesn’t he always?); twenty years on from the release of the Bible, now accepted as a masterpiece, they would play the whole thing live.

Given it’s among the bleakest albums of all time, you might be surprised at the anticipation that mounts as the DJ does his thing, building momentum until Messrs Bradfield, Wire and Moore appear on stage.

Army netting hangs ominously from the rafters and carpets the amplifiers, just as it did on the 1994 tour.

When the Manics materialise behind gloomy red stage lights, they’re also donning that era’s military uniforms and the roar from the crowd is deafening.

What follows is nothing short of blistering; I had wondered whether the album’s spoken word segments would feature, and they do, as from the speakers we hear “everythings for sale” before the band launch into a frenetic rendition of ‘Yes’.

The Glasgow crowd shouts every word back, including the “hurt myself to get pain out” lyric that Bradfield respectfully omits.

Despite the song’s content (it’s eerie to hear a few thousand people scream “hes a boy, you want a girl so tear off his cock…”), there’s something undeniably uplifting about the music; its anthemic, muscular menace takes hold of you and forces you to sing-along.

Tonight there’s very little chicanery or chat between songs; the Manics have tunnel vision and pause only briefly before getting on with business.

‘Ifwhiteamericatoldthetruthforonedayitsworldwouldfallapart’ and ‘Of Walking Abortion’ are sonic epics, their massive choruses continuing an ear-piercing call and response.

‘She is Suffering’ gives the crowd a chance to catch their breath; brilliant as it is, it engenders a captivated stillness in the hall.

It’s a theme of the night as a whole, actually, a blistering, break-neck number segueing into a reflective, though no less spellbinding, song.

That next rest period doesn’t come until track ten though, Wire kick-starting ‘Archives of Pain’ with that famously sinister heavy bassline.

On the Manics last appearance in Glasgow it glimmered as a dark, intense beacon among a greatest hits set, tonight it’s merely part of the gig’s fabric.

Lines like “all I preach is extinction” and “you will be buried in the same box as a killer” resonate like nothing else.

It must be hard going giving yourself over to these songs every night; Glasgow is the first stop on the tour and at times you can sense the despair, feel the pain; more than once Nicky Wire’s face takes on a grim cast: he glances worriedly at Bradfield, bites his lip, shakes his head.

Without lingering on the matter, you can sense his anguish most on certain songs, ‘4st 7lbs’ and the evocative ‘This is Yesterday’; the spectral presence of Richey Edwards will always haunt these tracks.

The set as a whole is remarkable, but ‘Mausoleum’, sounds especially bold, heavier than its album equivalent and ‘Faster’ gets everyone screaming so damn easy to cave in/man kills everything”.

‘Die in the Summertime’, like ‘Archives of Pain’, is part of a recent Manics setlist, and the three-piece nail it once again, Moore’s drums being particularly hair-raising.

‘The Intense Humming of Evil’, a song written about the Holocaust and not played live in 20 years, is met with appropriate, reverent silence, while ‘P.C.P’ sees Bradfield address the crowd.

“This one is, of course, for Richey James Edwards” he says simply; it’s the album’s closer, a feverish ‘fuck you’ to political correctness bringing the curtain down on the first ever live performance of The Holy Bible.

It’s been every bit as spectacular as I hoped it would be; in fact, it’s no exaggeration to say it’s been the best gig of my life.

I couldn’t be there in ’94, but to witness the Manics channel the rawness and passion and fury of their most definitive period, twenty years on, is a privilege.

There’s a 15-minute interlude between sets; The Holy Bible is not the only album on the menu tonight.

The Manics return, sans army regalia, Bradfield replacing his sailor’s shirt with a suit jacket, Wire removing his war paint in favour of diamond-encrusted sunglasses and kick off part two with ‘Motorcycle Emptiness’.

There’s a definite hangover from the Holy Bible set, but this classic, from debut Generation Terrorists, gets most of the crowd going again.

Set two throws up a few surprises, not least ‘1985’ from 2004’s much-maligned Lifeblood album and ‘Donkeys’, a B-side to ‘Roses in the Hospital’, which surfaced on the Lipstick Traces compendium; while not among their best-known work, there are pockets of the crowd who feel lucky to get to hear these ones live.

‘Your Love Alone is Not Enough’ also goes down a storm, while instrumental ‘Dreaming a City (Hughesovka)’, from latest album Futurology, confirms, as if there was ever any doubt, just what a gifted, original guitarist James Dean Bradfield is.

Rounding off the night with a storming one-two punch of ‘You Love Us’ and ‘A Design For Life’, the Manics have given us all something to remember.

There’s no encore, and no call for one, it’s been a triumphant night; see you in 2016 for the 20th Anniversary of Everything Must Go.

More Photos

Words: Ronnie McCluskey

Photos: Stuart Westwood

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