Manic Street Preachers, Winners gig

Mark Grainger 27/09/2010

There's always a sense of the unknown when a band's press release describes a gig as 'intimate' and in celebration of the release of a new album. Will it be an acoustic set? Will it be composed entirely of said new album? The intimate gig, especially one only available to competition winners such as in tonight's case, is where the band are really allowed free reign over the set-list and atmosphere.

The anticipation was made all the more tangible by the fact that the handful of fans cramming towards the stage in Newcastle's O2 Academy had travelled from across the country to see one of the few truly legendary British acts on the scene, and from the moment they strode on stage and burst into the opening strains of Motorcycle Emptiness, the Manic Street Preachers gave Newcastle a full on, balls-out rock show to prove just why they're still so adored.

Working through a staggering set list of greatest hits, fan favourites and tracks which haven't been aired for many years, The Welsh three piece (and their two live musicians) have the audience eating out of their hands from start. Modern classic Your Love Alone Is Not Enough and new album title track Postcards From A Young man sit easily amongst the band's best and brightest such as the startling masterpiece Faster and the still resonant If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next. As great as these songs are though, its several of the lesser heard songs which really serve to whip up the lucky crowd, with Motown Junk, You Love Us and No Surface All Feeling in proving particular effective, especially as the latter is dedicated to missing-presumed-dead lyricist and talisman Richey Edwards.

You could maybe forgive the band themselves for holding back a little, they are after all on the verge of a huge national tour and they're playing to only a handful of people at this particular show, but the Manics are not known to do things by half measures and it's to their credit that they play like there's no tomorrow, with Bradfield leading audience sing-alongs in between guitar solos and, well, manic whirling whilst Nicky Wire stomps around the stage. Musically too the Manics are as tight as they've ever been, and James Dean Bradfield's distinctive voice is in fine form, switching from a howl to tenderness on a hair's breadth, particularly on an acoustic rendition of 90's fan favourite You Stole The Sun From My Heart.

A Design For Life closes the curtain on an absolutely stellar evening after an hour's worth of solid hits and there's no doubt in the room that tonight was special. You could almost feel sorry for anyone seeing the Manics at one of their regular, scheduled shows, if it wasn't for the fact that they are guaranteed to be absolutely brilliant time after time. Tonight though they were that little bit better again.

In fine voice ... James Dean Bradfield. (Picture: Paul Taylor)