Review: Manic Street Preachers, O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire.

Blackwood’s absolute best, the Manic Street Preachers, have long since been leading proponents of revivalism: among many a Discogs-confounding reissue, over the course of the past five years, they’ve extensively revisited their acidulous masterpiece, The Holy Bible; the terrifically conflicted, if considerably less conflictual, Everything Must Go; and now the rather more introspective This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours. However, whereas revivalism has previously been the default formality, tonight carries with it that bit more revisionism.

When the record – first released in 1998, and their most commercially viable album to date – was reissued late on last year, Nobody Loved You (otherwise incongruous in callous lyrical content and musical alacrity likewise) was omitted much to the incredulity of fans of the band. And with great reason: if it were good enough for a finalised tracklisting then, why should it not be now?

Similarly this evening, the pack is quite drastically shuffled, as If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next – the single that was, and remains, arguably both their biggest and their best – is held back for the very end of their at times meandering, but at others running through the record. There is greater reason to this particular trick than their consigning Nobody Loved You to some kind of historical nothingness, as that more tender, sonically tired latter half of the album is discernibly lacking in the fresh effervescence of, say, You Stole the Sun from My Heart or Tsunami.

In essence, and with the benefit of the hindsight which distance in time provides, the album is somewhat front-loaded with National Treasures. Although for those who’ve never previously experienced the likes of I’m Not Working or Be Natural live, the set becomes increasingly compelling as it wears on. From a weary, if never wearisome, My Little Empire – replete with that Red Hot Chili Peppery riff – right through to a gorgeous rendition of the quietly condemnatory S.Y.M.M., old songs assume new life. Born a Girl, dominated and demonised by lyrics it’s hard to believe one Richey Edwards didn’t have a vatic hand in, stands in as James Dean Bradfield’s customary acoustic section and does so breathtakingly, for instance.

Perhaps ironically, Prologue to History – born an If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next B-side, and subsequently promoted from a mere Lipstick Trace to a post-dated album standout – lends pep but proves out-of-place; probably more ironic still is that, although they keep to a relatively prescriptive set, it is in fact less predictable than theirs can tend to be overall. Sleepflower, historically maligned by the band and consequently heckled-for more vociferously as much out of comedic impact as any desire to actually hear it, blossoms anew with its Def Leppard-like tightness; Solitude Sometimes Is, from the similarly ridiculed Lifeblood (which turns fifteen in November, and is surely due a reissue soonish), beguiles in lullabying bliss. Indeed, both categorically better such kindred singles as (It’s Not War) Just the End of Love and Your Love Alone Is Not Enough tonight.

Amidst the unrelenting revivalism, there has of course been some concession to survivalism also, so International Blue – from yesteryear’s otherwise lukewarm Resistance Is Futile – doesn’t solely make the proverbial grade, but so too acquits itself quite wonderfully; like a Generation Terrorist which cleaned up its act, yet retained a touch of grit and guile. More foreseeable inclusions conclude proceedings, a crystalline No Surface All Feeling and confetti-infested A Design for Life serving as elder statesmen reinstating the eminence of Everything Must Go. But truthfully, in revisiting (and at times, for better or worse, revising) its successor, they succeed in revitalising the legacy of both the album and the band itself.