Manic Street Preachers breath fire into Glasgow’s Barrowlands
The Barrowlands in Glasgow is one of the “must play” venues in Scotland, possibly the U.K. Its iconic ballroom floor has bounced to the best of them. The Manic Street Preachers new album, “Ultra Vivid Lament” may have challenged some of their fan base but the crowd was out in numbers to show their loyalty. Covid may have affected some venues recently but the “barras” was busy and the crowd hungry for some rock ‘n’ roll.
The support slot on a major tour can be the perfect platform to launch any career. Low Hummer, predominantly a six-piece from Hull, certainly looked like they mean to make the most of this tour but on their own merits. Already critically acclaimed, their first album “Modern Tricks for Living” formed the basis of their set. Played almost in its entirety, it was a great introduction for anyone who hadn’t heard of them. The band formed mostly from members of “Le Bete Blooms”, the edgy electronic guitar-driven pop had a familiar feel to it. Not unlike LCD Soundsystem, the songs had that “vibe” about them.
Early Ultravox and 80’s Bowie guitar licks were also in the mix during “Don’t you ever sleep”. The band reacted to the buzz from the audience and the pace of the set kept the crowd engaged. The mix of male/female voice worked well and the analogue synths backed by the hard-hitting rhythmic dance-influenced drums made a glorious wall of sound on “I choose live news”. Talking to the band after their performance, they feel they have grown as a band after every performance and the feedback from the crowds has been incredible. The band wrapped up their set with “The people, this place”
The Manic Street Preachers new album “Ultra Vivid Lament” may have hit the top spot in the charts, but like any band with a rich history of hits, the crowd wanted to hear the songs that they already love. What better way to kick off the set than with one of their biggest hits, “Motorcycle Emptiness”.
As the rapturous applause died down, “Orwellian” was next, the first track to be played from the new album, it wouldn’t be the last as the new songs were spread throughout the set. “Your Love Alone” preceded the second track to be played from the new album, “The Secret He Had Missed”. Sean Moore’s vigorous drumming came to the fore as his mighty kick drum could be felt throughout the venue.
James Dean Bradfield managed to pad out the male and female parts to the song as there was no Julie Cumming in attendance to compliment his voice. Two more classic tunes, “Little Baby Nothing” and “You Stole the Sun” were up next as the setlist substitutes were used to swap out tunes regularly throughout the tour. The crowd were now suitably warmed and “Still Snowing in Sapporo” was well received as the new album opener is firmly embedded into the band’s repertoire. “Everything Must Go”, written more than 25yrs ago but still such a crucial landmark song for the band, carefully sandwiched between another new tune, “Complicated Illusions”. Nicky Wire thanked the crowd as he said he was glad to “slap some make-up on, some jeggings from Marks and Spencer” and to “feel like a Rockstar”.
The new songs worked well and blended into the bands set. The recognisable shimmering wash of sound at the beginning of “If You Tolerate This” brought the loudest singalong of the night so far as the crowd still hankered for the older tunes despite the recognition for the newer material. At this point, James Dean Bradfield was left on his own, centre stage armed only with a black acoustic guitar. He asked the audience if they wanted to reflect or sway. With a resounding cheer when prompted, the chose reflect, much to his surprise. Influenced by the audience, he played “From Despair to Where” from Gold Against The Soul. He goaded the crowd further to see if they were up to hitting the falsetto part of the song, never shy, the Glasgow crowd proved their worth.
The band return to Bradfield playing the intro to The Skids “Into the Valley” a recognisable tune to most of the crowd before he slipped in a bit of Big Country then launched into the G’n’R classic “Sweet Child of Mine”. The crowd reacted noisily as they enjoyed the somewhat traditional rendition. Some sublime guitar work from Bradfield as the crowd managed to almost drown out the PA! The brief break from the stage gave Nicky a chance to “punk” up his look as he swapped jackets, messed up his hair, and adorned a bass with a Sex Pistols sticker. He actually had a passing resemblance to the pistols bassist but that’s where the similarity ended.
Back to business as “Tsunami” and “Afterending” bring the crowd back down from rocking out. The band get back to their early roots with “Slash and Burn” and “Spectators of Suicide”. No Manic’s gig would be complete without “You Love Us” as the arrogance of their youth now transcended to become their mantra in some respects. Without a break, Bradfield launched into some thanks for the crowd coming along and staying loyal after all the years and the night ended with “A Design for Life”, what else could they end on. The welsh dragons had breathed their fire on the galvanised Glaswegians and lived to tell the tale.