Slash And Return!

Manic Street Preachers: London Charing Cross Astoria

(NME, 14 Jan 1995)

If 1994 was The Year Rock Cracked Up, then it was the Manic Street Preachers who were wielding the sledgehammer. An album

boiling over with desperate intensity, a string of PC-baiting interviews and incidents plus, of course, Richey's hospitalisation left them just a razorbreadth away from genuine tragedy. So the crowd can sing "Here we are now: entertain us" at the pre-gig disco all they like. This is one band you can bank on never to (w)ring out the old and bring in the new by getting their singer to don a festive bobble hat and perform an impassioned solo version of Art Garfunkel's "Bright Eyes".

Er, except that's precisely what they do do. What fresh madness is this? Well, what the Manics seem to be doing is restating their ability to ENTERTAIN, pure and simple. As a band, they may bring more baggage with them than Ivana Trump on a month's Inter-rail holiday, but away from Richey's trauma's and Nicky's open-mouth-insert-both-feet pronouncements, they are more than capable of existing as "simply" a rock'n'roll spectacle. And a pretty bloody amazing one at that.

So tonight the Manics attempt nothing more than the best rock'n'roll show of their - and quite possibly anyone else's - lives. And succeeded, magnificently.

They now sound like James looks: lean, athletic and wired to f---. What's more, the singer (who bizarrely seems to have acquired an Irish accent) totally dominates proceedings, his bull-necked exertions rendering his more glamorous sidekicks positively demure by comparison. Nicky flounces quietly in one corner, Richey - pale and thin, but with dazzling smile intact hunches over his guitar in the other.

And not even concern for Richey's well being can distract from an awe-inspiring greatest hits show. "Motorcycle Emptiness" can still cause butterflies like no other riff of the last ten years. "Motown Junk" snarls like a cornered rat and even bleak "Holy Bible" material like "Yes" and "She is Suffering" is rendered gob-smackingly thrilling. up, as misery tourism goes, tonight is strictly Club 18-30.

After James' solo spot (also including an astonishing stab at, ahem, Wham's "Last Christmas") the band return for a final apocalyptic "You Love Us". Richey, who's been visibly twitching for quite some time now, chooses this moment to seize centre stage.

First he smashes his guitar. Then his amp. Then Nicky does the same across stage. Then total, beautiful chaos breaks out as Richey hurls himself into the drum kit and Sean responds by pushing over every set of lights he can get his hands on. Finally, James gets into the spirit of things too, splits his guitar in two and stalks off, declaring: "I f---ing hate that song anyway."

Richey is left alone on stage, hitting himself over the head with a splintered mic stand, before he too takes his leave to applause that the word "tumultuous" doesn't even begin to describe.

From anyone else it would be dull clich. From the Manics, it's a fitting finale to a show that serves as a short, sharp, shocking reminder that the remain the only band on earth to radiate intelligence like Stephen Hawking squared AND provide dumb rock thrills like a hundred Axl Roses.

Consequently, if only one band is going to mean the world to you, it should be them.

Now that's entertainment.

Mark Sutherland