Nicky Wire laughs at the irony that Manic Street Preachers are in Manchester on the same weekend of the Conservative Party Conference and share the same hotel. Behind a string of boos of Tory derision, his sarcasm turns serious and he declares: “I wouldn’t have been able to write this song [‘30-Year War’] if that fucker was in charge of my education.”
Though ‘Rewind the Film’ is largely acoustic and features layers of brass and strings that sound as comforting as a melted butter crumpet and cup of tea by the fireplace, ‘30-Year War’ is perhaps a much more eloquent political statement than the Manics’ infamous balaclava-donning appearance on Top of the Pops, and could not be better suited to a venue such as the Ritz with its 1300 capacity.
The intimacy created tonight is electric – right from the opening riff of ‘Motorcycle Emptiness’ - through their 23-song set spanning three decades - with Wire and Bradfield putting great effort into rousing the audience, playing right up to the front row and bouncing up and down like animated Disney tigers to incite mass sing-alongs. Dubbed the “perfect mutation of Joe Strummer and Mick Jones” by Wire with a touch of “Matt Munro”, Bradfield flits from the fiery punk on old fan favourites ‘Revol’ and ‘Motown Junk’ to a more pensive yet passionate existence on new tracks like ‘Anthem for a Lost Cause’ and ‘Rewind The Film’ and wears both personalities as well as Wire wears his glam military uniform which is sequinned with Sex Pistols logos. Most impressive is seeing him hit Nina Persson’s upper vocal lines from ‘Your Love Alone Is Not Enough’ and delivering a solo acoustic version of Andy Williams’ ‘Can’t Take My Eyes Off You’.
Highlights are ‘If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next’ which erupts into a terrace like chant mid-way into the set and the inclusion of the band’s trumpet player on stage, who brings great light to new tracks ‘As Holy as the Soil (that Buries Your Skin)’ and ’30-Year War’ as well as to the rock-pop of ‘Kevin Carter’. And not least, the closer ‘A Design For Life’, which is captured by the crowd as the anthem of its generation.
Overall, this is a captivating performance from the Manics. ‘Rewind The Film’ has injected new life and a broader palette of emotion into a veteran of the 90s alternative Britpop scene – and they sound all the more better for it.