Manic Street Preachers live review – Birmingham Genting Arena

More contentment than confrontation as former firebrands embrace middle age.

James Dean Bradfield with Manic Street Preachers, live in Birmingham
(Image: © Getty)

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Alienation alchemised into arena-rocking celebration. Lost causes reborn as communal singalongs. The mood in Birmingham for this show marking the 20th anniversary of the album that elevated Manic Street Preachers to mainstream stardom, Everything Must Go, is very different from how it was on their previous revival tour, which revisited the band’s psychic torture manual The Holy Bible.

Back in 1996, stripped to a trio after the loss of Richey Edwards, the spiky Welsh firebrands suddenly stopped despairing and started winning. Triumph from tragedy.

Tonight bulked out with a keyboard player and extra guitarist, the band stir up mighty passions by playing Everything Must Go in full and in sequence. It is hard to deny the enduring power of widescreen anthems like A Design For Life, No Surface All Feeling and that majestic title track. But this show is also pretty similar to most Manics performances, probably because the album was such a success first time around. These songs have been familiar live staples for two decades.

With the album complete, the Manics take a short break before returning for a second, career-spanning, hit-packed set. They also shamelessly flatter the Birmingham fans, name-checking local football teams and rock legends, including Tony Iommi. It’s is a warm and uplifting show, albeit firmly grounded in the comfort zone of both band and audience.

Stephen Dalton has been writing about all things rock for more than 30 years, starting in the late Eighties at the New Musical Express (RIP) when it was still an annoyingly pompous analogue weekly paper printed on dead trees and sold in actual physical shops. For the last decade or so he has been a regular contributor to Classic Rock magazine. He has also written about music and film for Uncut, Vox, Prog, The Quietus, Electronic Sound, Rolling Stone, The Times, The London Evening Standard, Wallpaper, The Film Verdict, Sight and Sound, The Hollywood Reporter and others, including some even more disreputable publications.