The second night of 2002’s Christmas Manics weekend. A much smaller venue, and a much grumpier Wire.
Night two of my Manics weekend of December 2002 saw them playing the Brixton Academy. My favourite band at my favourite venue – it was destined to be a phenomenal night. But when I got home from this gig, I had just one thing on my mind: What on earth was up with Nicky? From my diary:
‘Nicky was a completely different person from Wembley. He spoke little, and never removed his trews to reveal skirt+thighs – how painful to be denied such delights when you are so close to them.’
Nicky was clearly in a less than great mood, and while it didn’t spoil the gig, it did feel like a little bit of a come down after his glorious high-spirited antics the night before at Wembley.
‘So what happened to Nicky? My guess is he just didn’t want to play Brixton. He did make a disparaging comment at the end of Wembley – “it’s like a pub gig for us” – but I’d thought he was just being his usual Wireness. After all, the last time they played London it was to a couple of hundred at the Scala. But maybe they didn’t want to do Brixton at all – didn’t want a second London gig, or wanted to do it, but at Wembley again. Whatever it was, he clearly didn’t want to be there. We had no grins, and alas! no thighs.’
However, all was not lost on the Wire front. He may have been a bit grumpy, but that meant we had some classic caustic Wire antics to enjoy.
‘He did his stomping and leaping and singing along, and when he did speak to us it was pretty cool in an old-school Wire kinda way. Slagging off the venue and saying it was more suited to bands like Supergrass and Ash, which got some boos – not from me though, I cheered in support! Then he said something along the lines of “if you want to learn how to be unpopular just ask me”. Which I liked. And I think he dedicated “Stay Beautiful” to Richey. But… just can’t keep contrasting the way he was tonight with the wondrous Wire of Wembley, so into it he was punching the air along with the crowd in “Design for Life”. ‘
Oh, and I had one more thing to complain about:
‘And while I’m at it – – – WHAT was up with the Wire-side tonight? Were they made of stone???‘
But, thankfully, this is where the complaints end. Because despite Nicky’s glumness, it was still a fantastic gig, and had many things in its favour compared to the previous night. After Wembley’s ‘earscrapingly squally‘ sound quality, this night the sound was ‘crystal clear‘. And from my second row position I had ‘more room to move about than Wembley, and fantastic view.’ And as usual, my anticipation had reached stratospheric levels by the time the band were due on stage.
‘And GOD! “Speed of Life” will NEVER be the same for me again! SUCH a perfect opening… and how stunning is “Motorcycle” as a first tune?’
Nowadays I often hear complaints from fans about how boring it is that the Manics ALWAYS begin their set with “Motorcycle Emptiness”, but in 2002, it felt fresh and exciting. But something even more exciting for me came second: a track from “The Holy Bible”.
‘Not quite as stunning, actually, as “Revol” as the second tune. “LebensRAUM! KulturKAMPF! Raus RAUS! Fila FILA!” Later, James would rebuke some Bible tune requesters with “You’ve just had “Revol”, you greedy little munchkins.” Which was very cute.‘
The setlist was much the same as the night before, with the only change being “Revol” replacing “Life Becoming A Landslide”. So the only other note I made about the actual songs played that night was praise for the new version of “From Despair To Where” – the song that had made me a Manics fan nearly a decade before. ‘Can I just say how much I love the new version!! I can’t believe that they messed around with such a crucial fave entrenched in my very soul (which they own of course) and managed to make me like it BETTER!!‘
But mostly my diary entry was full of commentary on how the boys on stage made me feel. And in the absence of gleeful Wire antics for me to fixate upon, I found a different object for my idolising tendencies.
‘Did I mention JAMES?? If there was one good thing about glum Nicky, it was that my attention was drawn away to the James side of things, and bloody hell, how could I have forgotten, how AMAZING he is!!! I mean, apart from having a glorious heart shattering voice and the ability to spin dementedly about the stage whilst wreaking divine tunage from his guitar, he’s now become all chatty and friendly with us, telling us amusing stories like how crap he looked in glam trappings when he tried to emulate Richey and Nicky, or how he nearly threw an I-am-the-singer strop!! at security for not letting him smoke + drink in the arena. Ah yes, amazing man. I can feel a crush coming on (or should that be, coming BACK?!)‘
By the time I wrote about the gig in my diary, I’d already posted my review on the foreverdelayed forum, and these new revelations I was having about James apparently caused quite a stir. “I mentioned that I planned on standing James-side at my next Manics gig on the foreverdelayed forum, and inadvertently started a James’s crotch vs Nicky’s thighs war…” How I wish I could read that again now.
‘Oh GOD when will I see them again??!‘
Eagle-eyed readers of this blog will note on my gig list that I would in fact see them again only eight days later, on the last night of the Forever Delayed tour in Cardiff. But at the time of the Brixton gig, I thought that I was done with Manics gigs for the time being, and the pain was real. The pain would, in fact, lead me to hatching a mad plan to skive off work for a couple of days and leg it to Cardiff to see my boys again just over a week later. And I ended up having one of the best nights of my life. But that’s a story for my next post.
Meanwhile, it was just nice to find myself back in that glorious state of Manics obsession once more.
‘But I’m HOME! In Manics Worship Land!
Home is where the Manics are, after all.‘