Manic Street Preachers @ Blackwood Miner’s Institute 27/01/11

Manic Street Preachers - Photograph by Kate Southall

1986, Blackwood, Gwent; The Miner’s Strike was in full swing. The Tory government was hell bent on closing down the British Mining Industy prompting panic on the streets and riots in the suburbs. During this time a 4 piece punk band called the Manic Street Preachers were about to cause a ruckus of their own, starting in Blackwood’s Little Theatre.

Fast forward 25 years, the Tory Government are back in power,unemployment is at an all time high and the Manic Street Preachers are making a riotous return to their hometown.

Approaching the venue it becomes apparent that there’s electricity in the air, the queue a mixture of the Manics faithful (decked out in leopard print, glitter and eyeliner) and local people wanting to give the band a warm welcome back to Blackwood.

The Miner’s Institute is a symbol of everything the band stands for, a sanctuary built by the working classes, for the working classes, a beacon of the community where local people could do as Richard James Edwards once did and devour the works of Plath, Kerouac and Pinter; or at least Jackie Collins at their leisure. It is rather fitting that the venue of tonight’s homecoming is the very building that inspired the band’s first mainstream hit, ‘Design for Life’, a place at the heart of what Nicky Wire called his “inspirational hometown”

Manic Street Preachers - Photograph by Kate Southall

Heading into the auditorium Radio 2’s Jo Whiley takes to the stage to introduce the band, who are about to go live. As the trio make their way on stage they’re greeted with a raptourous reception, the leopard print covered Nicky Wire giving a knowing grin before tearing into live favourite ‘Motorcycle Emptiness’.

It is quite alarming that almost 20 years have passed since the band released the highly ambitious ‘Generation Terrorists’, an ‘Appetite for Destruction’ meets ‘Nevermind the Bollocks’ hybrid, crossing nihilistic punk rock with Slashesque guitar solos; which still sounds surprisingly fresh live. We must be thankfully that the Manics didn’t sell the intended 16 million copies and split up as planned.

Manic Street Preachers - Photograph by Kate Southall

The highly enthused crowd are treated to a mixture of old favourites such as Slash ‘n’ Burn, Motown Junk and Faster, as well as the bands latest radio friendly hits; Your Love Alone is Not Enough, (It’s Not War) – Just the End of Love and Postcards From a Young Man.

The band are extremely comfortable playing to their hometown crowd, so much so that they decide to perform their Clash-by-numbers debut single, ‘Suicide Alley’, for the first time since 1989; a rare treat for the minority of diehard Manics junkies in the crowd.

Manic Street Preachers - Photograph by Kate Southall

Following an extremely heartfelt performance of the anthemic, A Design for Life, the Manics do the unthinkable and play the first encore since the infamous Cuban gig a whole decade ago; although when given the chance Nicky Wire is quick to point out “It is not an encore section, it really isn’t”.

Closing with The Masses Against the Classes, this has been a very unique Manics experience and as Jo Whiley quite aptly put it, “A very special and extraordinary night” that will no doubt take a very special place in Welsh musical history.

Jarrad ‘Nöir’ Owens


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