The place where my all-consuming love for the Manics began creeping back.
In 2014, my life was much the same as it had been for the last few years – still trundling on with my PhD. living in a studio flat in South London, and battling an interesting variety of physical and mental health issues. I was also still more obsessed with Doctor Who than with music, and had celebrated my 39th birthday in March by attending a Tom Baker signing.
As for the Manics, my interest in them had reached an all time low over the previous few years. I’d found their 2010 album “Postcards From A Young Man” so dull that it barely seemed to come from the same band I’d fallen in love with all those years ago. I’d attended their 2011 greatest hits show and enjoyed it, but truly believed that my era of screaming love for the band was over. Their 2013 single “Rewind The Film” felt so unlike a Manics song that I didn’t even bother listening to the album when it came out.
Then, in early 2014, I began to wonder whether it was time to be a Manics fan again. It all started because of the social media return of my other favourite band, Mansun, or more specifically Paul Draper. The fluster of Facebook activity in relation to his upcoming solo career had inspired me to begin listening to Mansun’s tunes again in earnest, and look forward to maybe seeing Paul live in the not-too-distant future. And so naturally I couldn’t help but think of the Manics as well. From my diary in January 2014:
‘So I’ve been in the mood to reminisce about my late 90s gigging days and how thrillingly vital music was to me in those days. Which naturally led me to thoughts of the Manics. Since “Postcards From A Young Man”, which I found resoundingly drab, I have barely even considered myself a fan any more. I didn’t go to any gigs on their last tour, nor did I even attempt a dodgy download of their latest album “Rewind The Film”. Today, however, my nostalgic mood got the better of me, and I booked myself a ticket to see them at Brixton in April.’
This of course necessitated finally buying the latest album “Rewind The Film”, and so I ordered the CD from Amazon, which allowed me instant access to streaming.
‘And… I can’t pass judgment on one listen, of course, but it certainly hasn’t set my heart on fire yet. It’s a very slow and reflective album, and some of the songs are nice and I’m sure it will grow on me. But there’s no way I’d listen to it if it weren’t the Manics. But! A new album called “Futurology” is promised for later this year, and apparently it might be a bit electronic and interesting, so I can’t give up on them just yet.’
And so, in this spirit of Not Giving Up On The Manics Just Yet, I found myself trundling on down to Brixton once again to witness them live. I was, of course, a very different person to the one who’d first ventured there to see the band in 1996 – or so I thought, right until the moment that they came on stage.
‘I got there 20 minutes before the band came on stage, procured a glass of wine then meandered down to the far right, Nicky-side, maybe ten or so rows back. And then there’s a video montage to a tune from “Low”, and maybe “A New Career In A New Town” is not quite so thrilling an opener as “Speed of Life”, but oh yay did it transport me back to those epic 2002 gigs. And then they come on and launch into “Tolerate” and it’s FANTASTIC, greeting two old friends: the band I once loved so much standing in front of me, and ME, the girl I was, when I loved them so fervently. ‘
I don’t know what I expected to happen at this gig, but I remember that huge and entirely unexpected thrill, when I heard them play the opening notes to Tolerate and realising that I was still, at heart, 100% a Manics fan.
‘Yeah, there were moments of more recent tunes – some of them – which bored me a bit. And of all the nights on this tour, I have to come to the one where JDB chooses to do “La Tristesse Durera” acoustic instead of “From Despair To Where”. But I never expected to find myself wishing I was crushed against the barrier, as I did, and moving surreptitiously forward at every opportunity. Yeah, my fire was truly relit.’
And the one crucial thing I learned this night was that, regardless of how little I’d enjoyed their last two albums, there were better tunes to look forward to.
‘”Rewind The Film” may not have thrilled me too much, but the tunes did sound much better live. And most importantly of all, the tracks they played from the new album “Futurology” were utterly storming. Haven’t been this excited for a new Manics album since, well, “Lifeblood” probably.’
And as this gig came to a close, I was already planning my next few Manics live adventures.
‘So, Brixton was my 28th Manics gig – can I make it to 30 by 2015?’
I did make it to number 29 a couple of months after this gig, but sadly, my newly-rekindled love for the Manics met a bit of a stumbling block there, and I wouldn’t make it to my 30th gig until 2016. But better late than never, after all. And the most important thing is that my journey back to that all-encompassing love for this most incredible band of my life began right here.
Categories: All the gigs of my life