A unique and exciting era for the Manics. Unfortunately, I was far too ill and depleted to fully enjoy it..
Just over a year had passed since my last gig, seeing Delays at KOKO in May 2008, and all was not well in my world. I’d sunk into a myriad of digestive health issues over the last few months of 2008, which led to a series of tests in January 2009 revealing that I had gallstones. I battled through the first few months of the year with the help of a plethora of pills and dietary changes, and had even managed some small celebrations for my 34th birthday in March. But by the spring I was still pretty weak, losing weight at a rapid clip while I waited for the doctors to decide what to do with me. And as if this weren’t enough for me to be dealing with, I’d also decided that the time was right for me to go back to university full time and finally do a Masters, so most of my spare time was filled with preparing applications and planning my finances.
Into this busy time came one of the most exciting periods in the Manics’ history: the release of “Journal For Plague Lovers”, the album they created with the lyrics that Richey had left behind when he went missing in 1995. It was an album full of a raw beauty and acerbic spite, the likes of which we hadn’t heard from the Manics since “The Holy Bible”. For those of us who had been fans since the early days, this was as close as we could ever get to a reappearance of the band that we’d originally fallen in love with back in the early 90s.
It should have been a thrilling time, with me racing out to every possible gig, but sadly, I only made it to one gig on the “Journal For Plague Lovers” tour, and have very little record of it. For once, I don’t have to fully blame this on my 30-something apathy towards music – my health concerns and academic plans would have also played a huge role in my relative neglect of this most unique Manics era. I like to think that, had I been well and not drowning in university application forms, the excitement and rarity of this era might have seen me breaking out of my mid-30s gigging slump and spending many hours down the front at Manics gigs in 2009.
As things were however, it’s a bit of a miracle that I made this one gig at all, given that it came at the end of a really bad week full of pain and fatigue. I even called in sick from work on the day of the gig and hid in bed all day, hoping to have enough energy by the end of it to make it up to Camden. Miraculously, I did, and here is what I wrote about it:
‘To Camden round 7.30, and to the Roundhouse. Manics were amazing, the first set of JFPL sounded brilliant live, and the greatest hits set had me leaping about and throwing my hands in the air despite the growing suspicion that I was pushing it a bit. I felt fine though until half way home on the tube when for a time I thought I might pass out.‘
Typically for this era of my gigging life, my main memory of the evening is indeed that tube journey home. I truly felt like death and there were a few moments halfway through where I thought I would have to get off at the next stop and find a member of staff to call me an ambulance. Somehow I got home and was able to collapse in the comfort of my own bed, which I barely left for the rest of the weekend. In truth, I really was too ill to have been out gigging that night.
I’ve been watching some fan videos on Youtube recorded at this gig, and it’s clear that the band were on absolute fire in this era, just as my brief report says. Songs both new and old were full of an energy and purpose which, if I’m being completely honest, has been slightly lacking at some of the more recent Manics gigs I’ve been to. But I can’t feel too hard on my 34 year old self for not grasping this era with both hands, racing out to every gig and coming home to provide breathless detailed reports in my diary. Given that I barely had the energy to do anything more than get to work and back home again most days in 2009, I’m glad that I at least was able to experience this unique era of the Manics at this one gig. Even if I did only narrowly avoid paying for it with a night in A&E.