Friday July 5th, 2013.
The sporting undertones of Manic Street Preachers’ Sydney show were established long before the band sauntered on stage. Playing only two shows in Australia as part of their antipodean tour coinciding with the British Lions tour of Australia, it’s hardly surprising the band were greeted by a sea of rugby jerseys, dragon-emblazoned flags and the boisterous calls of Brits who filled the Hordern Pavilion.
James Dean Bradfield greeted the crowd with mirrored enthusiasm and humor, hinting at playful competition as he told of the palpable atmosphere of the band’s Melbourne show. Though the Hodern lacked a full-capacity crowd and Sydney’s audience never got to crowd-surfing like their Melbourne rivals Bradfield had mused about, the atmosphere remained celebratory and lively.
Motorcycle Emptiness kicked off the show, setting the pace for the band’s hit-spinning set which had clearly been constructed to please the widest demographic possible. Your Love Alone is Not Enough, You Stole the Sun From My Heart, and A Design For Life were the obvious choices and were suitably well received, but Little Baby Nothing, Revol, Suicide is Painless and Motown Junk also proved to be crowd-pleasers.
Crowd-pleasing seemed the aim of the game: the ever-charismatic James Dean Bradfield welcomed the crowd warmly, addressing them individually by nationality: “… the Welshmen, Irishmen, Scotsmen and Englishmen of Australia”.
The Australians jeered playfully at Bradfield’s omission of them in his address, which the charming front man quickly corrected and made up for by thanking the band’s host nation and its “wonderful people”.
It did, however, very much seem like the majority of the crowd were indeed Brits: and more so, hardcore fans closer in age to the band members themselves rather than the length of their careers. An interesting if unexpected crowd composition – but not an unwelcome one given the younger, predominantly Australian demographic lacked the adoration of the band that the older punters had. Even before the Manics took to the stage, one particularly vocal young Australian served as a comedic example of the demographic that the Manics had forgotten. He became a parody, intentionally or otherwise, as he called out confidently after the set of supporting act Hungry Kids of Hungary: “Bring on the Street Sweepers!”. (Don’t worry, he was only joking… I hope.)
A high-spirited sporting theme permeated the gig: Send Away The Tigers’ was renamed to Send Away the Lions, terrace chanting of “Lions” was repeated more than once, and even the Australians were acknowledged with their nationalistic cheer, “Aussie, Aussie, Aussie! Oi, oi, oi!”, a chant which Bradfield led himself.
Despite the jovial spirit of the night, the atmosphere never lost the kind-hearted sincerity that comes with Bradfield’s charismatic grace. Even the front man’s comical anecdotes lent themselves to touching sentiment. A tale of a terrible accommodation experience culminated in Bradfield mimicking the rhythmic knocking of love-making by thudding his hand against the side of his mic for comedic affect. Explaining the annoyance of the noise, he quickly added: “It wasn’t me!”
The audience laughed, and again when Nicky Wire chimed in with a smile, “It wasn’t me either!”
Bradfield motioned to Sean Moore, “Wasn’t Sean!”
The laughter wore off and suddenly there was a slight awkwardness clouding the atmosphere, through which an inevitable shout from the audience penetrated with clarity, “Richey!”
Here Bradfield’s tone softened as he shook his head, “Nawh, not Richey either.”
Taking a break from prancing around the stage with gaiety and an infectious grin of glee plastered to his face as permanently as the sparkling silver decoration across his cheeks, Nicky Wire stood at his feather-boa-adorned mic and joined Bradfield in addressing the audience seriously.
“I wrote these lyrics when I wanted to top myself,” he informed the crowd.
Briefly explaining the song’s themes of escapism, Wire spoke with a candidness that made the crowd “awh”, but no sooner had the mood darkened when a grin flashed back onto his face as he revealed : “In the end I went to fucking Torquay.”The band tore through the contextually relevant Australia to a rapturous reaction undeservedly denied to them during the rest of their dynamic set. A phenomenal live band, the Manics performed with boundless energy and self-predicating assurance. Bradfield’s powerhouse vocal performance eclipsed into intimacy as he took to the stage alone to perform acoustic renditions of The Everlasting and Frankie Valli’s Can’t Take My Eyes Off You. Even then, as though his heartfelt acoustics weren’t enough, Bradfield returned to the overriding theme of the night. Sport returned as the security blanket as Bradfield incited good-natured crowd participation, inviting sporting fans to name the two sport-related theme tunes he played on his guitar.
Soon, the rest of the band joined him on stage to take out the final, most boisterous leg of the show. Of course, as can be expected from the encore-shunning Welshmen, the most rapturous moment of the night came as the band tore into their final song of the night – If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next, a track which brought the gig to its thundering high-point and saw the band off in high-spirits (to enjoy the Lions’ victory over the Wallabies the next day, no doubt).
Setlist via Setlist FM:
- Motorcycle Emptiness
- Your Love Alone Is Not Enough
- You Stole the Sun From My Heart
- Ocean Spray
- Suicide Is Painless (Theme from MASH) (Johnny Mandel cover)
- (It’s Not War) Just the End of Love
- La Tristesse Durera (Scream to a Sigh)
- Everything Must Go
- Send Away the Tigers
- A Design for Life
- The Everlasting (Acoustic)
- Can’t Take My Eyes Off You (Frankie Valli cover) (Acoustic)
- You Love Us
- Little Baby Nothing
- Motown Junk
- If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next