Manic Street Preachers Commodore Ballroom, Vancouver, BC September 22
Published Sep 23, 2009Before the Internet obliterated division lines in the early '00s, the hottest music in the UK and Europe was totally different from what was big in North America. Manic Street Preachers hail from this pre-homogenization era of musical culture: bona fide hitmakers on the other side of the Atlantic, with a string of UK Top 10 singles that barely grazed the Billboard charts in North America. Here, they occupy more of a cult position, and if you weren't paying special attention to Britpop in the '90s, you probably don't know the words to any Manics songs.
Having said that, cult bands tend to have particularly ravenous fans, and the Manics' faithful were lined up early outside the Commodore for the trio's first Vancouver appearance in a decade. They needn't have bothered, though - the place was half full at best, and this for a band that recently played a three-show stand at London, England's 3,000-capacity Camden Roundhouse.
Still, the Manics didn't seem to mind - singer/guitarist James Dean Bradfield and bassist Nicky Wire broke into large, genuinely delighted grins as the true believers shouted along enthusiastically to their every lyric. The set itself was a "greatest hits" affair, peppered with songs from 2009's surprisingly excellent Journal for Plague Lovers, which uses lyrics left to the band by missing (and now presumed dead) founding member Richey Edwards. These songs, along with classics like "La Tristesse Durera" and "Motorcycle Emptiness" and touching solo acoustic versions of "This Is Yesterday" and "The Everlasting," came together into a pretty unforgettable experience.
And when they launched into "Motown Junk," their first commercially released single and one of the greatest rock songs ever, period, well, you couldn't help but thrust your fists skyward, full beer or not, and remember a bygone era when the cool kids made that special effort to listen to bands that were only big in Europe.