Among the Metallica t-shirt-wearing punters filling the streets this Saturday evening, occasional glimpses of glam-attired bodies appear, all en route to The Forum. Tonight it’s Christmas for the freaks of Melbourne and their long-awaited gift awaits them at the iconic venue.
Among the Metallica t-shirt-wearing punters filling the streets this Saturday evening, occasional glimpses of glam-attired bodies appear, all en route to The Forum. Tonight it’s Christmas for the freaks of Melbourne and their long-awaited gift awaits them at the iconic venue. Long before the our early pressie –Manic Street Preachers – arrival, fans gather and buzz about all things Manics, including rumours about poor attendances in Adelaide and unresponsive audiences in Sydney. In a flash, there’s a collective unspoken ‘decision’ in people’s faces that says the band won’t receive the same reaction here tonight.
Eleven years have passed since the Welsh former glam-punks have played in Australia. At the time they were promoting their fifth album This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours, which still features heavily in their set, but fans of their heavier, earlier work were in for more of a blast than expected tonight. The wait during support act Dead Actor’s Club was unbearable for some and the Welsh flags began appearing, held aloft, early in the Melbourne band’s set. Dead Actor’s Club played a ripping electro-infused rock show, and definitely didn’t outstay their welcome. Following a lively intermission in which copious hardcore fans took the time to meet one another, each brimming with the same feeling as the next, we are suddenly joined by a huge portrait of Tim Roth filling the back drop. This image, which announced itself recently as the cover of the new Manics album Postcards From A Young Man, receives a star’s welcome.
From the pit, the noise is deafening as fans erupt to the sight of the Manics who are now in our midst; James Dean Bradfield looking robust and muscular as hell, Sean Moore in his all-black military regalia, and Nicky Wire keeping the cartoon-glam flag flying with his collection of feather boa’s extending even to his mic stand. The set kicks off with You Love Us, as every Manics’ gig has since their debut, and rolls on blending the new with very old alternately. Regardless of age (of song or fan), the faithful here tonight know every single word and sing back to the band with fierce enthusiasm. The occasional shouts for fan favourites are ignored however, as they rip through a best of, of sorts, which easily covers their entire catalogue of work.
There are a few rarely played indulgences – This Is Yesterday, Australia,Motown Junk – but mostly it’s the songs no Manics gig could do without – Motorcycle Emptiness, A Design For Life, If You Tolerate This… Muscling onto that list is sure to be this year’s come-back single, It’s Not War (Just The End Of Love), which although musically similar to Smashing Pumpkins’ Tonight Tonight, already feels like classic Manics.
The show gallops along at break-neck speed with each anthemic punk song following another, but Bradfield, who can barely be heard over his adoring fans, decides to show-off his awesome voice and sends his cohorts away for an acoustic interlude. Here’s where the personal fanboy moment arrives, as Bradfield and I, strangely (for me) maintain eye contact for nearly all of Ocean Spray and sing it together. This gentle moment among the storm is over fast and before the second acoustic number, Everlasting, is finished Bradfield steps away from his mic and lets the packed Forum take it to the end for him. He seems genuinely thrilled by the response and, as Sean and Nicky return to the stage, our reward is the monstrous Faster. In his absence, Nicky’s slipped into something more comfortable – a mini-skirt, paired with sailor’s hat and jacket. He yells into his mic, “In Sydney, they thought I looked ridiculous… But what the fuck do they know about fashion!”
It’s rare to see the band’s true firebrand – Nicky – disarmed, but lumps were in throats all around as he took a moment to describe the ongoing loss he feels for long-lost Manic, Richey Edwards. So we all shouted extra hard for Nicky during No Surface, All Feeling, a dedication to his lost bro. It’s a fact that the Manics never, ever do encores, so the momentum as they plough towards the finish, only spirals up and up. They beef up the stirring, usually mid-tempo Tsunami for the live set, before roaring through a vital-as-fuck Design For Life. Hands raise, stomping commences, and hysterical screams fill the air, but we all know it’s in vain once the guys exit the stage with a final wave and a bow. Maybe Sydney and Adelaide didn’t exactly pull out the red carpet for the Manics on this tour, but from where I stood, Melbourne had a fresh rug made, poured them a glass of bubbly and insisted they stay the night. If our unspoken mission to butter them up into coming back before another eleven years pass works, only time will tell.