Manic Street Preachers – Royal Albert Hall – Review

Manic Street Preachers – Royal Albert Hall – Review

Not so Manic
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Not so Manic

It sounded a bit like The Manic Street Preachers, it looked a bit like The Manic Street Preachers. Was it the Manics? Not the ones I was hoping to see.


Tuesday 18th May 2016

I had high hopes for the Manics. I’ve only been listening to them for… oooh, let me think… forever. Did they deliver? I dunno, maybe. It was the Royal Albert Hall after all. It’s got a ‘Royal’ in it so you expect… something.

Well, we got something. Editors for a start. I’d heard of Editors, but never actually heard Editors, and this was no exception. The Royal Albert Hall is no place for a single Vox AC30 and a thin back line of miscellaneous amplification. Unless you’re Clapton, chances are you’re going to sound shit. I heard songs that sounded like, “Wuggghhfnnth mufffaguntthhh…” and, “Thugghhh huffuntueghhh…” But that’s about all I can tell you. There were 3 people in the audience that totally loved it. If that helps.

There was a break before the Manics came on and the road crew unveiled a set of Marshall amps that had been cunningly hidden under a big black cloth. The big cover-up just made me wonder why they hadn’t let the Editors use the available muscle power. I know they were saving something for special, but the people in the audience, the ones spending the money on tickets… might have appreciated actually being able to hear something.

The Manics just kind of materialised and started. No real drama, no real excitement, it was just, “London on a Tuesday.” That’s how James Dean Bradfield opened the Manic street preachersconversation with the audience between tracks and I’m not convinced he made it much further than the ‘school night’ feeling for the next hour and a half.

The rest of the band comprised Nicky Wire on bass, with a suitably rock and roll white painted face, and Sean Moore on drums. A nameless keyboard player was static on an elevated platform for no apparent reason alongside another nameless guitarist in skinny jeans. They were there, but didn’t seem to offer much of any real consequence.

We’d all come to hear the sounds of James Dean Bradfield but one voice is not enough to fill the Albert Hall. At least not on a Tuesday. There. I said it. There were other microphones on stage but no one else was really bothered about singing. That’s a shame because Bradfield could have used the support to fill the space.

The first half was a track for track re-run of the 1996 double platinum album, ‘Everything Must Go’. I daresay they played a fair rendition last night, but the album’s really good. So the live version has to be really, really, really good. It was alright. But this is the Albert Hall. The Royal Fucking Albert Hall. It’s not enough to sell the tickets. You have to be really, really, really good. I’m not convinced this was. If I’d seen them 20 years ago at some Camden bar dive, I’d still be telling the tale. But this was just, OK and instantly forgettable.

The sound still wasn’t good despite the Marshall stacks. Loud, yes, but not well mixed – it hurt at all the wrong times. I don’t know why the sound engineer was just sitting at the desk with his arms folded and the, ‘my work here is done,’ look on his face. It didn’t sound like he’d done much work at all. That’s the trouble with Tuesdays I guess. So, the first half was not very animated, a bit self-indulgent and sounded like shit. On the bright side, however, there was an interval.

A couple of pints later I wa2016-05-17 21.58.32s feeling a little more forgiving. The band might have been too because at least they started to bounce around a bit. Not a lot, but enough to make me feel they weren’t just taking the 65 quid because they could. And that’s probably my biggest beef here. For 15 quid any night of the week (including Tuesdays…) I can see and hear an amazing band up close and personal in Camden shedding blood on stage because, well, because that’s how important it is to them. The Manics turned up. There’s a difference.


Yes, we were served up some of the classics in the second half – You Stole The Sun was my personal favourite – and the random appearance of streamers from the ceiling made it feel a little more like a celebration, but… just ‘but’. I love the Manics’ songs, they’re part of the tapestry of our lives and that makes them important. So rest on the laurels of the albums by all means, but if you’re going to turn up and play them live, in London, at the Albert Hall, you need to do it a bit better than this, because we had to turn up on a school night too.

It sounded a bit like The Manic Street Preachers, it looked a bit like The Manic Street Preachers. Was it the Manics? Not the ones I was hoping to see.

There are a few dates left in the tour. They’re end of week/weekend dates. So that’s alright then.


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Scot Mckee