by / June 8th, 2009 /

Manic Street Preachers, Olympia Theatre, Dublin

During the final triumphant moments of ‘A Design For Life’ James Dean Bradfield eyes the squashed assembled masses of rugby shirts and feather boas and implores them to â€Ëœlearn from us, use your past to make something for your future, donâ€â„¢t let your past destroy you, now go out and dance and have funâ€â„¢Ã¢€¦ To say that there is an air of finality to tonightâ€â„¢s proceedings is an understatement.

It is difficult for the Journal For Plague Lovers tour to be anything but the â€ËœRichey Edwards Experienceâ€â„¢, by creating an album that solely uses his lyrics and ideals they are shining a spotlight on the empty section of the stage, reigniting the myth and bearing the emotional weight which makes for a poignant if unyielding performance. In the words of Edwards own lyrics this tour is â€Ëœa kind of liberationâ€â„¢, not closure but instead an elongated exhale, a freedom and comfort to move within the past.

Breathing within their own history they play the album in its entirety. The use of Edwardâ€â„¢s lyrics not only has forced the band to up their musical game-banishing grandiose arrangements and sweeping melodies in favour of a raw claustrophobic clang last heard on The Holy Bible but also seems to have reinstalled the blazing confidence of old. As they stride onto the stage to the brutal buzzing of ‘Peeled Apples’ they are once again the Manics on a mission, ready to slice open and delve into the dark underbelly of human emotion.

They career through each track with clipped precision. The crispness of the single ‘Jackie Collins Existential Question Time’ through to the bold bombast of album highlight ‘This Joke Sport Severed’ they are all played with the same fierce intent and ferocious spirit with James spitting every lyric out like a shard of glass.

Even with the heavy subject matters of self destruction, annihilation, nihilism and general despair for humanity the evening is not a po-faced one. Songs are interspersed with Bradfieldâ€â„¢s dry self deprecating humour admonishing Richey for his â€Ëœtongue twisting lyrics that are a revenge on chunky little singersâ€â„¢ and then there is Mr. Nicky Wire his peroxide barnet recalling a â€ËœBlonde Fistâ€â„¢ era Margi Clarke, forever the demented housewife cackling wildly, rocking back and forth on his heels, his shark-like grin flashing in the darkness tonight he is a force of nature. Guzzling â€Ëœmedicinalâ€â„¢ pints of red-wine to aid his aching back he snaps out razor sharp one-liners about Bonoâ€â„¢s poorly applied make-up and anecdotes about the bandsâ€â„¢ early visits to Dublin. If anything this gig is a celebration of the band in all their guises. It is only when he straps on his acoustic guitar to tackle the painfully honest ‘Williamâ€â„¢s Last Words’ his vulnerability hidden by giant sunglasses that there is a feeling of intrusion, perhaps this is something too personal to be shared with a venue full of gawping strangers.

Finishing with an hour of crowd pleasing hits they rummage through their back catalogue offering up oldies like ‘Sorrow 16’ and ‘Little Baby Nothing’ as well as radio favourites like ‘Your Love Alone’ and ‘You Stole the Sun from my Heart’ culminating in the giant rousing sing-a-long of ‘A Design For Life’. They leave the stage with Wire waving to the faithful wondering what they will return with next or if they will return at all.

– 04/06/2009

Photos by Loreana Rushe.