Everything Must Go – Manic Street Preachers and 20 Years of fandom

I look to the future it makes me cry / but it seems too real to tell you why

I had never felt so underwhelmed going to a gig before and especially not for a show by one of my favourite bands.  Going alone is only part of the problem.   The knowledge I will not be home before half one on a school night taints the event before I’ve even got there.

Much as I love the Manics they are rarely a band of surprises.  They play the hits and have always been honest about that. The Internet means that set lists offer the confirmation that the much promised ‘rareties’ are just largely album tracks they rarely play rather than the much loved b-sides they are known and loved for.

Expectations were already low and then I made the tactical error of checking the Royal Albert Hall to see what my seats were curious as why no one was even interested in the relatively cheap ticket for a show where standing tickets were £65.

The cheapness of the ticket should have been the clue. It reflects the fact that it will be in the most nose bleediest of the nose bleed standing area with no guarantee there will be even an approximation of a view of the band.

The last desperate emails, Facebook posts, Twitter appeals have all fallen on deaf ears.  I will be going alone and I will see nothing.

As I sit at work I start to seriously consider cutting my losses and going home.

Meanwhile in 1996

It shouldn’t be like this. Everything Must Go was my first CD. I remember hearing Design for Life on the Evening Session (in the days when I obsessively listened to radio) and knowing that this was a band I needed to hear more of. I listened to the stories of Richey and the band they were before and knew this was something special. A band that prided itself on being political, different and intelligent. I heard their live festival shows and the sound of songs like La Tristesse Durera and knew this was my band.

I quickly hoovered up the previous albums, sought out the b-sides from friends, immersed myself in the interviews, read everything I could about their history and learned to play guitar so I could play the songs and maybe be in a band of my own.

I listened to the album as others may read a book with undivided attention, scribbling notes about the lyrics and the music. I studied the lyrics, unpicking the guitar parts and chasing the quotes and references to find their sources. Each subsequent album I would be at the shop on the day to get a copy.

It was an education, inspiration and consolation all wrapped up in a package of amazing music and guitars, oh man, the guitars. It was my gateway drug to metal, post punk and beyond as I worked backwards from their songs to the band that had in turn inspired them.

My first London gig was to see them play the Royal Albert Hall in 1997. The Boo Radleys supported them, we had vertigo inducing seats and it was brilliant. I watched the top of the bands heads as they launched around the stage full of sound and fury signifying everything.

All we make is entertainment

Fast forward to 2015 and the announcement we thought would never come. The band would perform The Holy Bible in full. I got my golden ticket (tickets sold out in minutes) and listened to the album (both US and UK mixes) and the b-sides, blew the dust from my guitar and tried to see how many riffs I could remember.

The show was as close to a religious experience as an agnostic can get. The crowd were there because they wanted to be. They knew what they were getting after all they had been clamouring for it for years. Every playful heckle of “Archives of Pain” at the enormodome venues slowly chipping away at the bands insistence this would never happen.

The crowd knew all the words, immersed themselves in the references decked out in the band uniform of the era. This was not an experience to be taken lightly. It was special and not to be taken for granted.

The songs were physically and emotionally demanding for the band playing them. Playing as a 3 piece with no back up just raw sound. Songs where the pre chorus is an unbroken stream of words for 40 seconds all the while having to play intricate guitar parts. That’s before considering the subject matter of the very darkest extremes.

After the dust had settled they returned on stage for the much promised b-sides and rareties and it lived up to its billing. Among the obligatory classics they played new album tracks and true classics.  The new songs sound great in the absence of a full album tour.

It was all so incredible so when the 20th anniversary shows for Everything Must Go were announced I set a reminder and made sure I got two tickets.  Then…I forgot about it.

7:25pm – 16 May 2016

Greeted at the door:

“I’m not going to lie to you.  These are crap seats.  The worst.”


“I know…”

“So we’re offering a free upgrade to seated if you want it”.


Yes, yes I do.

In my lovely new seat three rows from the front I see the shadowy spectres of those standing where I should be.


I feel the merest flicker of guilt as I consider my new seat..


Any residual guilt is blown away by the wall of sound emerging from the stage as The Editors play their Coldplay plays Joy Division / New Order tribute act. To give them their due they work hard to rouse a typically apathetic London crowd from its torpor.

London crowds really are the worst. I scan the room for signs of the party faithful, the glitter, feather boas and homemade slogan t-shirts and come up blank. People clutch their overpriced beakers of beer as if their lives depend upon it and tap their feet politely.  That’s the best of them.

The others are the type of people I hated at the Silent Hill live show.  The type to spend a small fortune to get tickets to a show they know nothing about (“I watched the film.  I’ve never even played the games.   I didn’t recognise any of the songs”) and spend the whole time walking back and forth to the bar.  They are joined by people who left after the support act and those that left after 2 songs.

Finally we get the main attraction. The sound of the sea washes into the hall and a roar goes up as James Dean Bradfield steps on to the stage for a shattering Elvis Impersonator with just his incredible voice and jangling guitar before the full band crash in.

The first half races by. His voice as ever sounds amazing. The opening of Elvis is far more chilling than the album. Design for Life feels odd not being a set closer (although some choose to leave after its played, either they are confused or they genuinely can afford to pay £65 for two songs).

Kevin Carter sounds huge. The videos behind show the clips from the music videos stripped of the band miming giving the song the menace it deserves before giving way to Enola / Alone’s plaintive cry that ripples through me pulling me back to 1997.

I take a picture of you / to remember how good you looked / like memory it has disappeared / naked, alone and in my fears

The title track and mission statement of Everything Must Go takes me back to the days when I tormented guitar shop staff with my ham fisted renditions of this song.

James desperately tries to get a reaction from the crowd, gets some minor fire going…just in time for the slow, delicate and haunting Small Black Flowers.

Removables spiky Nirvana, leads on to the euphoria of Australia to the bubbling bass and jabs of Interiors straight to the not a love song Further Away to the Smashing Pumpkins arpeggios of No Surface, All Feeling where the line “no, not blood, just liquid from you” flashes me back to that hospital room but I catch myself.

A brief intermission and mass exodus for the bar before the next half opens with an acoustic Suicide is Painless and a surprise outing for Ocean Spray.

It takes Motorcycle Emptiness to get people in the seats to stand. This song was playing on the way to a family outing to a boot sale and it was only then as I sang along to the cubs I realised how completely odd the lyrics were for a Top 40 hit.

The tension and release of Walk Me to the Bridge is the only song from Futurology to make the cut. You Stole the Sun appears as it always does and gets people bouncing. A beautiful Your Love Alone keeps up the pace and urgency, its cheerful call and response vocals hiding a darker lyricism.

Natwest sounds surprisingly good live. Nicky Wire’s vindication about being right about the banks all along only slightly undercut by the knowledge the song was inspired by being turned down for a loan rather than an awakening about capitalism’s inherent flaws.

Roses in the Hospital sounds incredible. The chorus guitar sliding through this Sound and Vision homage until it explodes into a melodic solo.

The ugly duckling of Rewind the Film and self-proclaimed wedding reception song of Show Me the Wonder is a surprise joy.

By the time we get to the final song I’ve been standing, singing and cheering for nearly an hour all prior doubts forgotten.

I just hope that you can forgive us…

Of course I can.  After all the music, the lyrics, the politics, the passion and all the support and inspiration they have given to me over the years, how could I not?

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25 Comments Add yours

  1. mumzilla says:

    Sounds bloody amazing! I can’t believe you got to see them play the holy bible!! Xx

    Liked by 1 person

    1. ShoeboxofM says:

      In the links I have a YouTube play list of both tours (and JFPL). Some great videos available!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. randommusings29 says:

    Way to go on the upgrade, but I still think this would have been brilliant where ever you were, sounds perfect 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Kerry says:

    I used to love this band, must dig out my old CDs! #KCACOLS

    Liked by 1 person

    1. ShoeboxofM says:

      After watching the show it made me watch all the old interviews and footage. YouTube is a true treasure trove of material!


  4. thesecretlifeofmum says:

    Sounds like you had an amazing time! What a result on the upgrade! So true what you said about London audiences (I’m from London so have seen it myself) too busy taking selfies and drinking over priced beer to enjoy the show haha. Thanks for sharing #dreamteam

    Liked by 1 person

    1. ShoeboxofM says:

      The mad thing is they are paying £65 for the opportunity to drink overpriced beer and not even watch the show!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. thesecretlifeofmum says:

    I’m not sure who off the top of my head but an artist actually banned phones from the front rows as they were so sick of seeing hundreds of iPhones stuck up in the air rather than faces enjoying the music!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. ShoeboxofM says:

      I’m conflicted by that as much as it is annoying having the Selfie Brigade there are those recording the show that mean that I can enjoy the night again and see clips from the tours I couldn’t go on!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. thesecretlifeofmum says:

        Totally agree and totally guilty! I have been known to have a mid-show deleting spree as I’ve run out of memory to record stuff haha!

        Liked by 1 person

  6. I remember them being huge in the 90s. they remind me of growing up and being at secondary school 🙂 pleased you had an amazing time! #KCACOLS

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Silly Mummy says:

    I love the Manics (at least everything up to & including If You Tolerate This, not so much the more recent stuff). & their cover of Suicide Is Painless is one of my favourite things ever. I tend to avoid listening to Holy Bible these days, though it’s an amazing album & This Is Yesterday is easily one of my favourite songs of theirs, simply because it is the music that has the most power to make me feel like I’m back in a time of my life I must never be back in. Generation Terrorists, therefore, becomes my go to Manics album. I like the more punk sound.

    (I went to UEA for my undergraduate degree – the older doormen there would still tell us about Richey if we asked, as the famous Steve Lamacq incident was at a UEA gig. Though, as interesting a person as Richey really was, I actually always admired Brian Molko’s outspoken resistance to inheriting the Richey fans, who tried to latch on to him, seeing him as similar. He was right in why he didn’t want that – Richey was never something to glorify or emulate, he was a very troubled, deeply unhappy person & it wasn’t glamorous.)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. ShoeboxofM says:

      That’s one of the reasons I love them so. They are very careful not to mythologise him and just keep talking about him as their friend rather than a rock star.

      It’s a shame you don’t dig the new stuff as much. There have been some horrible missteps but some of the more recent material on Rewind / Futurology has been some of their best and of course the b-sides are full of treasures.

      GT is an odd album. I love that type of music but hate the dumb lyrics so it was great to discover them blending the two. It’s a shame that such a punk album has such a shiny sound. I love the Heavenly version of You Love Us with the ‘Lust for Life’ style outro and the b-side version of Spectators of Suicide is better than the plodding album one!


  8. I saw this gig at Leeds Arena last friday. At school me and a friend had listened to the Manics and Stereophonics consistently (she was more Manics, I was more Phonics) and we went our free time watching videos of their tours so when tickets came out for this, we grabbed a couple. They were awesome but i found the audience a bit sedate. #KCACOLS

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Kat says:

    So glad you were offered the upgrade so you could enjoy the show. I missed out on the silent hill live and I was gutted! But yes, those type of people that have no understanding of what it’s like to be a true fan of the series are infuriating! #kcacols

    Liked by 1 person

    1. ShoeboxofM says:

      The link on Silent Hill should give you most of the Glasgow show. I enjoyed it even if it was a bit ragged round the edges. I found a blog by the guitarist who was recruited to play on the day for the Cardiff show! He had had a matter of hours to learn all the songs!


  10. I have never seen the Manics live, but they have always been on my playlist and one of the proper bands that i wish i had paid more attention too. Looks like a great show, i am pleased you enjoyed it! Looks like quite a journey! #blinkylinky

    Liked by 1 person

    1. ShoeboxofM says:

      They are good live if you accept they won’t do the rarities or Sleepflower! The sound is always good and they’ve grown to love stage chat (even if you can’t always hear what Wire is saying!).


  11. I’m not really into music, but hubby is. Looks like a good show and that you enjoyed it. Thanks for linking up to the #BinkyLinky

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Annette says:

    Yay for you for getting an upgrade. I was half expecting to hear about your rubbish standing view… that is fantastic! Did they just randomly offer it to you? I have never been to a proper concert before (if you discount stuff like wireless festival). It looks amazing. #DreamTeam

    Liked by 1 person

    1. ShoeboxofM says:

      I tricked you with my tricksy writing!

      Gigs aren’t for everyone but when it works it’s amazing to be part of the crowd singing along to every word and feeling the physical force of the sound washing over you. Some festivals can capture that (not V though) but I prefer the smaller venues.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Nige says:

    Awesome band have always been a fan lucky you seeing the holy bible great post thanks for linking to the Binkylinky

    Liked by 1 person

    1. ShoeboxofM says:

      Thanks for hosting! I’ve not been as diligent in my linky duties but will catch up with the #binkylinky action soon. First, house needs clearing up after toddler mayhem…


  14. Awesome post. My hubby is a Manics fan and has seen them several times (most recently at the Brixton Academy a few years ago). I got him to have a read of this and he was impressed, it sounds like it was a good gig, and great that you got your seat upgraded! Thanks so much for sharing this at #KCACOLS, x

    Liked by 1 person

    1. ShoeboxofM says:

      Brixton is a great venue. Seen the Manics play there too. I won a sound check and meet and greet competition but sadly no meet and greet for us! In addition to the links here there is some great footage of both gigs on YouTube.


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