All the gigs of my life

All the gigs of my life: Gig 36 – Manic Street Preachers, Wednesday, December 16, 1998, Wembley Arena

“All I can say is, “All we love are lonely RECORDS!!!!” Oh yes.”

My last gig of 1998. An overwhelmingly emotional and perfect way to draw the first chapter of my life in London to a close.


When I went to see the Manics this Wednesday night in December 1998, I had less than 48 hours til I was due to fly back to my family home in Perth for the first time since I’d landed in London in December 1996. Precisely two years before this gig, I’d been to my third ever Manics gig, just a fortnight after arriving in the city of my dreams. And at that gig on the 16th of December 1996, I had made my decision: I wasn’t going to go back to Perth in 1997. I was going to live in London for good. I’d written in my diary then:

“So however my life goes while I’m here, I owe it all to the Manics.”

So far, my London life had been many things: exciting, surprising, frightening, amazing. I’d had some horrible lows, but I’d also experienced many things I never would have imagined back in my dimly-lit bedroom in Perth. It felt very right to draw these two years of my life to a close by celebrating with the Manics, the band I owed it all to, just as I was about to revisit that Perth life for the first time in two years.

My diary entry for this gig, hastily scribbled in a snatched moment between crashing home knackered at midnight and the ensuing packing and panicking on my last day before flying, is a series of excited thoughts, memories and proclamations with little order or sense.

I had some thoughts about being in the seated area, much further away than I’d usually like to be. “The distance? Who cares! It was the MANICS!!! That Mexican wave, minutes before they came on, the whole seated crew going wild as one, unforgivably uncool perhaps, but the atmosphere sky-rocketed. They are made for stadiums.”

I went through a few song highlights of the evening. ” “Stay Beautiful”! “Australia”! “Fucking hell I’m 30 in February” says James as he introduces “Black Dog”. “This one’s dedicated to Mr R. Edwards, whose birthday’s in a few days” introducing “Small Black Flowers”.  “She Is Suffering” and “Motorcycle Emptiness” echoing and ricocheting around the massive space. That fire, as “No Surface All Feeling” crashes in, on the 3 screens behind the band as well as the 2 beside the stage, a bloody great massive wall of fire, it was stunning.”

And I commented on the different talents of James and Nicky.  “James’ voice was rougher, but its power in no way diminished, in fact it was if anything even more amazing than usual. His rendition of “Small Black Flowers” was especially heart-stopping. Nicky’s rope skipping skills left him half way through his “You Love Us ” display, so he made up for it by giving us an extra performance at the v. end, utter scream inducement. Perfect!”

But most of all, I felt the wonder and the significance of the moment that I found myself in.  “During the unbelievable “Elvis Impersonator” I felt somewhat overwhelmed at the strangeness of my current state, to be thinking, here I am in the middle of London, exactly where I spent my teenage years in Perth wishing to be, watching the Manics, exactly what I spent my teenage years in Perth longing to do, and this time next week, I will be back in Perth. It was an overwhelming feeling and I can’t quite explain it, but it nearly had me in tears as I hollered “limited face paint! and dye! -ye! yed black quiff!” etc. It was a very happy feeling though.”

One week later in Perth, dazed by sunlight and jetlag, I had a surprise. The Manics were featured in a local music paper and, it seemed, were going to follow me to Australia.

“Manics on the cover of Xpress! They’re playing the Big Day Out!!”

Could it possibly be true? I’d get the chance to see the Manics in the very city where I fell in love with them, where I spent many a teenaged hour longing to see them live? No.

“They come to Perth the day I leave! How completely hilarious.”

But at least I ended 1998 laughing, and with a long, sunny holiday in Australia ahead of me to start 1999, followed by another year of phenomenal gigs in London. I couldn’t really have wished for a better end to 1998 than that.

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