A summer seaside frolic with My Boys.
June 2004 stands out in my memory as a bright and shiny month. On the 1st of the month I had my final exam for my psychology diploma, and my mind was full of plans for an exciting future pursuing a career in the field (which, alas, never came to fruition). My new boisterous social life was continuing apace, with endless nights out wreaking havoc across London with my new glamorous best friend and the many young men who appeared to follow in her wake. It was a fun and thrilling time, but not a little exhausting, and so this mid-month trek to the idyllic Isle of Wight to see my favourite band the Manics, and favourite singer David Bowie, came at just the right time. From my diary on the 11th:
‘Oh my lord, it’s gorgeous here. You can sit staring at the deep blue ocean and brown sand, on your left a white craggy cliff face, on your right, rolling green hills. I had lunch in a café on the pier after taking a stroll along the beach – the beach, for christ’s sake! And played some of those useless pier arcade games like they had at Brighton. Slept in my pink and green hotel room for a bit before roaming out for another walk. Then back to watch Ronald Reagan’s funeral.‘
A packed and exciting day I’m sure you’ll agree, but the main events began the following day. I met up with my fellow Manics and Bowie obsessed friend Kathryn, who I’d last seen at David Bowie’s first night in Wembley the previous November. We made our way to Seaclose Park to see our boys. And it turned out to be a gig full of unexpected treats.
‘Kathryn and I had been debating what song they might begin with, but we never suspected ‘Elvis Impersonator’. That and ‘No Surface All Feeling’ were brilliant surprises. And thrilling to hear ‘Yes’. Though we already knew they were going to play it.’
However, despite these exciting moments, this was definitely a gig of ups and downs.
‘Bits of this gig were utterly great – ‘Motorcycle’ as joyous as ever, ‘Faster’ returned to its full-metal glory, and need I even mention how great it was to hear ‘From Despair’? But the sound was pretty terrible. ‘Ocean Spray’ in particular suffered in the murky mix.’
But despite the dodgy sound, the band were in great spirits, and of course it was time to describe in detail the most important aspect of the gig: how did they look?
‘The band seemed to be in a good mood, James very chatty and Nicky very grinny despite the non-partisan crowd. Nicky’s got short hair and dodgy beard arrangement at the moment. Can’t say I’m impressed. Sean, though, has grown his hair to GATS-era proportions! And James looks exactly like he always does.’
But even more exciting than the appearance of long-haired Sean, there were new songs in the set! We’d waited a long three years since the band’s last album “Know Your Enemy”, and I was well and truly ready for a new era. I was impressed with what I heard. “Empty Souls” was ‘edgy and quite exciting‘, and “Solitude Sometimes Is” was ‘slow and probably demonstrative of this ‘elegiac pop’ Nicky’s going on about‘.
Said ‘elegiac pop’ would come into full force a few months later when their stunning seventh album “Lifeblood” was released. And if I liked these songs on first hearing – I assessed them as ‘both quite promising‘ – I would go on to love them hugely, as this album would eventually overtake “The Holy Bible” as my favourite Manics album of all time.
I also wrote a bit about this gig on my livejournal, mostly repeating the same points but also emphasising that ‘I was glad that they played the proper version of ‘Faster’ not the semi-acoustic travesty of recent years’. And I was a bit more effusive about the new songs – they ‘sounded amazing, as well they should seeing as it’s taken them three years to come up with a new album!’
All in all, my 19th Manics gig was an enjoyable one despite the sound problems, but it’s not one that sits amongst the all-time greats of my now 36-strong Manics gigging career. But it gave me a chance to witness the very beginning of what would become my favourite Manics era of all – not to mention the opportunity for a brief respite for a life that had become bizarrely hectic – and so I remember this Isle of Wight Manics adventure with great fondness.