Manic Street Preachers, live at the SSE Arena, Wembley, May 4th 2018

The band that I first saw in December 1992 has morphed into something very different but it's a definite progression rather than a degeneration of the former terrorists. ...

Words and Pictures: Adrian Hextall \ MindHex Media

For a band that helped me survive the 1990s, to see them still going strong, surrounded by an audience of all ages brings a strong sense of warmth to my heart. That they can fill Wembley Arena with a massively mixed audience is also testament to the quality of the material they continue to release.

‘Resistance is Futile’, the 13th album since debut ‘Generation Terrorists’ was released in 1992, is a huge slice of orchestral rock music designed to fill arenas just like the one in Wembley. The band that I first saw at the Kilburn National Ballroom back in December 1992 has morphed into something very different but it’s a definite progression over the years rather than a degeneration of the former terrorists. 

Their lyrical content, delivered by the fiery Nicky Wire continues to find appropriate targets and bites down hard to ensure the messages are heard and heard well. The sounds, filled with several additional musicians on stage are sumptuous and glorious and get everyone moving from the word go. 

The public seem to appreciate the band as well with the latest release hitting the Number 2 slot, narrowly avoiding the top spot thanks to Hugh Jackman’s circus romp soundtrack hogging the limelight. 

Before the band come on stage and at various points throughout the show, various slogans and quotes appear on the backdrop. Familiar to some and alien to others who haven’t followed the band as closely over the years, they manage to do the impossible, making you stop for a moment, ignore most of the 12,000 people surrounding you in the SSE Arena and consider a particular thought or notion that the text has triggered. They acted almost as palate cleansers, clearing the mind from previous songs opening you up to the subtleties of the next track to be performed. 

The new music blended in perfectly with the old. Opening with latest single ‘International Blue’ could have been a gamble but the amount of radio airplay it’s had over the last couple of month pretty much guaranteed the crowd were singing along from the off. Classic ‘Motorcycle Emptiness’ followed as did the adoration from the crowd. Two songs in and the band could do no wrong.  

After Distant Colours from the latest album, they brought on a special guest. Duets are something the band are known for with several albums linking various female singers with James Dean Bradfield and after a quick introduction to the Anchoress, Welsh singer Catherine Anne Davies, they perform three songs together. ‘Your Love Alone is Not Enough’, ‘Little Baby Nothing’, originally sung with ex-porn star Traci Lords, and new song ‘Dylan & Caitlin’, were all given that extra polish thanks to Catherine’s voice. The latter is performed as a perfect love song with both vocalists looking deep into the others eyes whilst they sing. It was as if, for them, the crowd and band were not there. Highly charged, emotional and a real highlight of the show.

Even songs that saw the band at their most angry, angst fuelled, get the modern treatment and ‘Faster’ is delivered by James on an acoustic guitar. Losing none of the bite thanks to the lyrical content it makes the song seem as poignant now and it did back in 1994.

After Nicky Wire performed a cover of the Sex Pistols ‘No Feelings’ the show closed with a classic double of ‘Slash and Burn’ and the classic ‘Design For Life’, the track that saw the band move headlong into the big time in the late 1990s. As ever, as the last notes ring out, the band depart, no encores… there never have been… I doubt there ever will be. 24 glorious songs and an unforgettable evening. 


International Blue
Motorcycle Emptiness
No Surface All Feeling
Distant Colours
Your Love Alone Is Not Enough (with The Anchoress)
Little Baby Nothing (with The Anchoress)
Dylan & Caitlin (with The Anchoress)
You Stole the Sun From My Heart
4 Ever Delayed
The Masses Against the Classes
Horses Under Starlight
Everything Must Go
If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next
Faster (James Dean Bradfield solo acoustic)
Can’t Take My Eyes Off You (Frankie Valli cover)
Stay Beautiful (James Dean Bradfield solo acoustic, with “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You” snippet by Frankie Valli)
You Love Us
Walk Me to the Bridge
Hold Me Like a Heaven
No Feelings (Sex Pistols cover) (Nicky Wire on vocals)
People Give In
Slash ‘n’ Burn
A Design for Life

Tell Us How You Feel


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