All the gigs of my life

All the gigs of my life: Gig 112 – Manic Street Preachers, Wednesday, December 12, 2007, Brixton Academy

My second Manics gig of 2007, and a much more thrilling affair than the previous one.

It was Christmas time in 2007, and something pretty big had changed in my life since my last gig: I had a new job! When I went to see the Pet Shop Boys and the Manics at the end of May, I’d been full of the stresses of my outpatients job, in which I felt massively overstretched and underappreciated. Something had snapped in me the following month, and I’d gone on a mission to find a new job, throwing out applications wherever I could. And I struck gold very quickly, landing a medical secretary post at the hospital where I already worked. It turned out to be a job I loved, and this period ended up being one of the happiest times of my working life.

So it was a much more settled and confident version of me that strode out to Brixton to see My Boys for the second time in 2007. Maybe because of that reason, or just because of the sheer joy that seeing the Manics at Brixton at Christmas time can bring, I had a much better time at this gig that I’d had at the Astoria the previous May. From my diary:

‘I was Up For It that night, and sang and leapt about and threw my arms in the air and generally partied like I was 25.’

As an aside, I’m not sure why I chose the age 25 to demonstrate how rejuvenated I felt I this Manics gig, as it was one year of my life where I didn’t see the Manics at all: I turned 25 in March 2000, when the Manics were on their post-Manic Millennium hiatus, and didn’t see them again until late March 2001, just after I’d turned 26.

But regardless of how young or old I felt, it was a wonderful thing just to be back in that thrill of Manics obsesson again, even if just for a night.

‘Major thrills: opening with ‘Motorcycle Emptiness’, the first few bars of the riff without percussion, hiking up the anticipation so that when the whole band crashed in you had no choice but to MOSH; ‘I Am Just A Patsy’ again, my song of 2007; and ‘1985’ to bring back memories of the Manics album that soundtracked my life changing irrevocably.

It’s notable that, even in this era when the Manics were beginning to mean less and less to me, I still clung to their songs as emblems of particular eras of my life. “1985” had been a reminder of how “Lifeblood” had seeped through a year when new people and situations had changed my life completely, and more recently during 2007, I had connected with “I Am Just A Patsy” in a time when I felt somewhat underappreciated by people around me. The ability of a Manics song to power me through difficult or perplexing times remained undiminished.

‘I wanted to have a merch frenzy afterwards, but everything was so expensive! I mean, £20 for a beanie hat! So I was sensible and became 32 again and went home.’

So, this gig was much more like the ones I’d been to a decade previously, and I felt a bit of the old Manics-obsessive spirit return – although not, it seems, enough to tempt me to a £20 beanie. Still, I was buoyed by the Manics love enough to log into the Forever Delayed forum when I got home, to chat happily with fans about the spectacle I’d just seen. But it would turn out that the main thing I took away from the night was not any particular Manics-related revelations, but something to do with one of my geeky fandoms, which were rapidly overtaking music as my biggest interest in life.

‘The night was only marred on my return when I logged onto Forever Delayed to catch some post-gig buzz and I read the awful news that Terry Pratchett has Alzheimer’s. There can be no starker proof of the lack of justice in the world than that.’

Despite the night ending on a downer, I think back fondly on this night as one of the few Manics gigs I went to in my 30s where the band still held the power they’d had for me in my youth. That power would eventually return to full strength in my 40s, but it would be a long and winding road of waxing and waning fandom before I’d get there.

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