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Manic Street Preachers - 19/06/18 - Royal Festival Hall

HockneySun, 02/06/2019 - 11:53

When I was a boy one of my favourite books in the house was a coffee table book named Japanese Mythology. The mix of religions, legends and the Samurai traditions creates a radically different mythos to that of Europe, while sharing the basic themes of family, love, honour, warfare and death.
Thus, this t-shirt was an instant purchase, and instant favourite I’d normally buy the tour shirt with the dates on the back, but the front was just the album cover – an admittedly tasteful photo of the guy we in the west consider to be ‘The Last Samurai’ (no, not Tom Cruise) – and not a throwback to the days of classic Japanese woodcuts. Do a search for Hokusai and have a look at the beautiful work he did in the early 19th century – incredibly detailed illustrations with gorgeous colours, many of which are now iconic. The cartoons produced by Studio Ghibli take Japanese mythology into modern times: ‘Spirited Away’ mixes Hokusai into the palette, while ‘Princess Mononoke’ takes an ecological slant on the Samurai era.
And the gig… was brilliant. The Manics had played Wembley Arena a couple of weeks previously but why go there when you can sit in comfort at the Royal Festival Hall? I managed to grab a seat further back than I’d normally go for, but with an excellent view and the chance to watch the sound and light guys do their thing.
The support was ‘The Anchoress’ – a woman with a great voice and songs of disastrous relationships. Her stuff was okay, but not essential. She’s currently touring with the Manics having appeared on the new album. Her contributions in the gig were the album track and a spot-on reading of ‘Little Baby Nothing’, which they’d also done together at the Roundhouse in October. In fact, the setlist was very similar to the Roundhouse gig, which is not a complaint in any way. The new songs fit in beautifully – the template set by the ‘Everything Must Go’ album is not one to be set aside lightly.
But what’s exhilarating about gigs like this is seeing a band fresh off an arena tour in a 3,000-seat venue; they make every seat feel like the front row because they know how to connect. Florence and the Machine played a gig like this recently – she’s due to play the O2 in a few months but she made the Festival Hall feel like a living room concert.
The staging on the night was minimal – dirty great picture of the album cover, and a small lighting rig soaking the room in sunset and daybreak colours. James Bradfield and Nicky Wire bounced around the stage and the backing players did their thing with enthusiasm. However, it appears the keyboard player still hasn’t been forgiven for joining the Spice Girls for a while!
Given that Meltdown is curated this year by Robert Smith, we got a Cure song, with the added bonus of it being one I knew. We got ‘Motown Junk’, we got ‘Faster’, we got ‘You Love Us’ and we got the finale of ‘Design For Life’, where the whole building sang itself into exhaustion.

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