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This isn’t the first time the Manic Street Preachers and fellow Welsh rockers The Joy Formidable have played together – they both supported former Beatles singer Paul McCartney at his Cardiff Millennium Stadium gig last year And the current indie darlings, The Joy Formidable, clearly made their mark on the Manics to land this slot as the main support for their mini tour and homecoming show. The Joy Formidable’s live setting lent a heavier edge to the songs, adding a new dimension to the melodies. However, the six song set yielded a somewhat muted response, until they closed with the most recent release- ‘Whirring’, which stood head and shoulders above the other tracks.

The Manics opened their monster 23 -track set with an unpredicted nod to the old-school in the form of ‘Stay Beautiful’. Although this was tagged on to the back of the Postcards From A Young Man tour, the band played only three songs from their tenth studio album. Having built up a hefty and monumental back-catalogue, the set list would not have been out of place on a Greatest Hits tour. It was peppered with unexpected lesser-known album gems such as ‘Of Walking Abortion’, ‘Let Robeson Sing’, and ‘My Little Empire’, demonstrating their varied repertoire. Notably absent were representations from the excellent, but underrated Journal For Plague Lovers.

As with most Manics gigs, bassist Nicky and drummer Sean get a bit of a break when frontman James leads an acoustic interlude/ This offering saw the familiar cover of Frankie Valli’s ‘Can’t Take My Eyes Off You’, and a beautiful version of ‘Everything Must Go’. The latter offered a stripped-back-to –the-bare-bones version of the usual Phil Spector-esque wall of sound, offering a whole new perspective of the original. And it worked. The enraptured crowd hung on the band’s every word and beat, wavering only slightly during Lifeblood’s ‘Solitude Sometimes Is’ (anti-climactic after the assault of the iconic ‘Faster’ and raw and fierce ‘Slash and Burn’).

The Manics know what the crowd want to hear, and are more than happy to feed the appetite of the Greatest Hits-ters. However, as a long time fan, I cant help but hope for a sneaky B-side or two among the failsafe favourites; a reasonable wish I feel, since the commercial release of teh B-sides album, Lipstick Traces. But, following a three year absence from Cardiff, the Manics delivered a triumphant homecoming. Wrapping up the set on a high with their staple final song, ‘A Design for Life’.

Words: Rhiannon Croot
Photo: Adam Slinger via Flickr