Manic Street Preachers

support Public Service Broadcasting
author LF date 12/05/14 venue Store Vega, Copenhagen, DEN

Having dragged myself through a Monday consisting chiefly of 8 hours of train rides and a hangover from a gig the day before, I make it to the venue just in time to hear the music beginning upstairs. The show is very close to sold out and that reflects in the amount of people who have come here early to hear the support act. As I look around, I quickly suspect I might be one of the youngest people in attendance tonight as most of the people I see smiling at what happens on stage look well above 28. It doesn't really come as a surprise though, as the headliner of tonight has existed since 1986. In loose relation to that, the curiosity that drove me to attend this show was based entirely on me having checked out their Greatest Hits record a couple of years ago and fairly liking it, leaving me sort of worried as to my knowledge of their set list. However, before I could find out whether it would work out or not, I had to run upstairs to catch what I could of the support.

All pictures by Christian Søes

Public Service Broadcasting

What I see on stage when I enter the venue are two musicians, one behind a drum set and one in control of various guitars, a computer and an electronic pad, and between them a big, square screen showing video-clips in mostly black and white, the rest of the stage hidden in thick smoke. For the uninitiated, Public Service Broadcasting could be termed an almost entirely instrumental band as their vocal tracks consist of quotes lifted from what seems to be various archival material and old movies. An electronic voice is also used when the band addresses the crowd in-between songs, with the guitarist prompting it on his computer to robotically say things like "We are so happy to be here [pause] København". This gimmick gathers spread laughter and clapping throughout the set. Their experimental electronic rock is most of all quirky, one song for instance being presented by the robotic voice as being about ice-skating and in Dutch, accompanied by self-conscious, cheeky grins from the duo on stage. The songs range from the silly and playful "Theme from PSB" to the more gloomy and droning "If War Should Come". They seem light-hearted but serious at the same time, and the songs play like a series of aesthetically weighted history lessons, at one point telling us the story of Mt. Everest, the next about the wish of mankind to be able to fly and build airplanes. The choice of video-clips on the screen really supports the forward-striving, story-driven character of the music, and as such I couldn't really imagine it working as well without the visual component. It is however well-executed and amusing to watch and also succeeds in waking me up somewhat.

7

Manic Street Preachers

What is notable about the main name of the evening even before they hit the stage is the cool artwork for their upcoming "Futurology" album completely covering the backside of the stage and the big, Welsh flag-prints covering their amps. As the band-members begin to enter the stage in fairly upbeat fashion, people immediately clap along enthusiastically and continue as we're treated to an early highlight in "You Stole the Sun from My Heart" as the second song. Vocalist James Dean Bradfield actually does us the courtesy of presenting most songs by name, a generous favor to those of us who might have a hard time catching up with the extensive back-catalogue of the Manics. It strikes me that they are decidedly more rock'n'roll in this live-setting than I would have expected since hearing an experimental record like "Rewind the Film". This is not least backed by their demeanor on stage as Bradfield swings casually around with his guitar a lot, just bouncing about himself with his neck-open red shirt and loose black tie. Furthermore, I could swear drummer Sean Moore is wearing leathery biker-gloves, while bassist Nicky Wire casually wears sunglasses for half the duration of the set, using every opportunity to pace the stage and jump around. Halfway through the show, after an obligatory acoustic part, the band-members apart from Bradfield even change their clothes, almost like the band was a radio pop act.

While their convincing demeanor on stage coupled with the enthusiasm of the crowd is not easily dismissed, I'm disappointed for a good while of the show, because the incredible range that can usually be heard in Bradfield's voice on record is nowhere present tonight before about midway through the set. He only ever really hits his appropriate form as he goes acoustic, first with the emotive "This Sullen Welsh Heart" soon followed by an incredible performance of "The Everlasting". As he plays that second acoustic song, I can't help feeling frustrated that it took half a set for him to ease into it, since these softer bits of his vocals are so much more expressive and impressive than they could ever be on the more aggressive songs like "Die in the Summertime" and "(I Got) The Fever", the likes of which don't seem to add much in terms of quality to the set list for me. As the Manics finish their 1½ hour set, I am completely worn out from my exhaustive weekend, but in a good enough mood to be genuinely delighted that Bradfield can actually really sing live, even if I wasn't left entirely happy with the way things played out.

Setlist:

  • 1. Motorcycle Emptiness
  • 2. You Stole the Sun from My Heart
  • 3. (It's Not War) Just the End of Love
  • 4. Europa Geht Durch Mich
  • 5. Suicide Is Painless
  • 6. Everything Must Go
  • 7. Rewind the Film
  • 8. Die in the Summertime
  • 9. Your Love Alone Is Not Enough
  • 10. Enola/Alone
  • 11. Walk Me to the Bridge
  • 12. A Design For Life
  • 13. This Sullen Welsh Heart
  • 14. The Everlasting
  • 15. Revol
  • 16. Futurology
  • 17. Ocean Spray
  • 18. You Love Us
  • 19. Tsunami
  • 20. Show Me the Wonder
  • 21. Motown Junk
  • 22. If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next

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