+the manic street preachers in hollywood+

(This is what I wrote after I returned home from seeing the Manic Street Preachers at the Avalon Theatre in Los Angeles–it is part concert review, part personal journal entry. I’ve also included some videos from the show.)

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Little things change people’s lives

Something I never thought would happen has at last come to pass. I have seen the Manic Street Preachers live.

I nearly cried when I heard they were coming to the United States. It has been over a decade since last they were here, and we American fans have been convinced they were never coming back. And so when I saw the Los Angeles date, I schemed to make my way to the Avalon Theatre in Hollywood by any means possible.

The Manics are utterly my favorite band. More so even than U2, whom I love. Everyone knows how I feel about U2, but the Manics. Ah. They are my passion. A band whose music is so filled with meaning, there is a website devoted to footnoting and explaining their lyrics. A band whose members are talented and wonderful and gentlemanly and rebellious beyond belief. And now I have seen them live, standing in the front row at the rail, no less, in a small venue filled with a few hundred other people who certainly felt the same way I did.

Matt and I woke up early Friday and drove to Los Angeles. We had a room at the Hollywood Celebrity Hotel, which was just lovely. After checking in, we walked down to Hollywood Boulevard. We had so much time to kill before the show, so we stopped at a pizzeria and had something to eat. Then we made our way up Vine, past the Avalon, where a few fans stood outside in line, and past the Capitol Records building. It was still so early so we walked around the block, sat at the bus stop for a while, and then finally put ourselves in line at the Avalon with the others.

We made friends with the two guys behind us–Mike, a charming kid who said he spent an entire Brixton Manics gig crying and rolling around on the stage, and Assan, a Pakistani kid from Santa Barbara. Mostly, we just sat quietly, watching the Hollywood traffic go by. Finally we made it in, and we went straight to the stage on James’s side. Matt and Assan talked back and forth about English Premier League football until the opening band, Nico Vega, came out. We were one row back from the rail at this point. Nico Vega were alright–great singer, great drummer, sadly boring Brian Molko wannabe without the charisma guitar player. They were just okay.

After Nico Vega, one of Mike’s friends, Heather, paid the people in front of us $30 to go get some drinks. She and I stepped up to the rail when they left. Apparently they had only come to see Nico Vega anyway. I was shaking I was so excited. Standing on the rail, only a few feet from James Dean Bradfield’s mike stand. Waiting for the show to start felt like an eternity. I couldn’t believe I was actually going to see the Manics play.

Eventually, after much fog and soundchecking, they did come out. James was dressed in a black work shirt, and Nicky looked like a sea captain, full with the hat and white jacket, and with rhinestones on his face. His hair was stunning (and I totally want to steal his haircut). They opened with Motorcycle Emptiness, and it was wonderful. Here’s the setlist in full, and you can click through all but one song to see a video of it from the show:

Motorcycle Emptiness
No Surface, All Feeling
Your Love Alone Is Not Enough
La Tristesse Durera (Scream to a Sigh)
Jackie Collins Existential Question Time
Let Robeson Sing
Faster
Everything Must Go
This Joke Sport Severed
From Despair to Where
If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next
Small Black Flowers That Grow in the Sky (acoustic)
This Is Yesterday (acoustic)
Send Away the Tigers
You Stole the Sun from My Heart
All or Nothing and Motown Junk
Me and Stephen Hawking
Little Baby Nothing
You Love Us
A Design for Life

Usually when I write these reviews, I go song by song, recounting every funny thing the singer said and how I felt and whatnot. Really, all I can say this time is that I was in such disbelief the entire time. Whenever James would play guitar solos, he stood right in front of Heather and me. Assan took some photos and is planning to send them, including one from A Design for Life, where you can see my hand right in front of James. Mike and Heather both yelled things during the show that got James’s attention. James gave a sideways fist pump to Mike, and when Heather yelled “We Love You!” he made a clicking noise to her and winked. At the end of Motown Junk, which James often improvises, James also yelled out, “We eat rock n roll Froot Loops!” I remember turning around to Matt and going What the hell? and then laughing. It was awesome.


You can hear Heather yelling “We love you” at the beginning of this video. 🙂

James was on fire the whole night. He was jumping around and playing guitar like the god that he is. The band sounded amazing. James’s voice is still one of the best in rock and roll, no question. Some of the highlights for me were Faster, Tolerate, Let Robeson Sing, and the closer, A Design for Life. Some kind soul actually videotaped it. Near the end of the song, James brought his mike stand over to right in front of Heather and me, and he left it there til the end. He was so close that at first I nervously thought he was going to turn the mike around and make us sing the next chorus. He was standing right in front of us as we sang and rocked out (and Mike cried). It was unbelievable. And then, it was over.

A few people near me got copies of the setlists, but I did them all one better. I had seen a guitar pick fall to the floor, and I yelled at the roadie, asking if I could have it. He picked it up and came over close to me. I cupped my hands like I was about to receive manna from heaven, and I made the catch of my life! Haha. Now I have guitar picks from my two favorite Welsh singers and guitar players–Kelly Jones from Stereophonics and James Dean Bradfield. So amazing.

Matt and I got glasses of water, we gave Assan my e-mail, and we headed out into the evening. Some drunk guy had passed out outside the venue, and the LA fire department and an ambulance arrived to get him. We found Heather outside, and she said Nicky and Sean had already gone to the bus, but that James had not come out yet. I got my Sharpie ready and pulled the insert out of my CD copy of Journal for Plague Lovers. She had an LP of the album. We waited, and then Heather said, “Here we go!” We walked over to where James had come out, and he stopped and began to sign autographs. He signed a stack of stuff for some guy, and then he took Heather and Mike’s albums and my CD cover. He signed all three as Heather went on and on about how much she loved him and how he was a god of the guitar, and he just made her so fucking happy. James said, “You sounded quite poetic there until you started using curse words…” Everyone laughed, and I remember saying something like thank you for coming. It’s all I wanted to say, just thank you. Thanks for coming over here for your American fans. We aren’t many, but we do love the band just as much as the Europeans. I snapped a photo of James with my blackberry, and we stood aside as he signed more stuff and took pictures. And then he was gone. I kept looking at my CD with James’s autograph scrawled across the cover.

Matt and I made our way back up Hollywood Boulevard and back to our hotel. It was hilarious to see all the girls in ridiculously high heels, waiting to get into the most exclusive night clubs in the United States. The people watching that night was prime. I don’t think Matt or I could entirely process the fact that we’d just seen the Manics and stood only a few feet from James Dean Bradfield. We sat out on the patio at the hotel, listening to the Hollywood nightlife and drinking copious amounts of Vitamin Water.

Today has been kind of tough. Lots of sleeping, and still trying to process what happened. The music of the Manic Street Preachers means so much to me, and to see them live, especially when I thought it would never happen, has made me feel so indescribable. I’m not sure what will ever compare to that, honestly. I keep looking at the guitar pick, the autographed CD. I keep watching the videos of the show that have made it onto the Internet (and God bless the Internet for that). To relive the show like that… I just feel like Fortune’s pet. I can only say thank you. Thank you to Fortune, and thank you to the Manic Street Preachers. We really do love you.

Here is a video of A Design for Life, the last song the Manics played that night. This is the song where you can see James put his microphone stand right in front of me.

My autographed copy of Journal for Plague Lovers, and the guitar pick.
2009-09-27 07-02-21_0041

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~ by Jennifer Cunningham on October 3, 2009.

5 Responses to “+the manic street preachers in hollywood+”

  1. I saw them in Seattle and Vancouver and couldn’t have written your feelings and emotions any better!!Nice Work!

  2. Glad you enjoyed the review! It’s difficult to put an experience like that into words. And congrats on getting to see them twice–I’m jealous!

  3. Oh..I saw them in Dublin in June too..hehe..Not trying to rub it in..I think ALL of us wish we could hsve done this entire tour!Check out my pics from Seattle and a few from the amazing Commodore Ballroom in Vancouver..

  4. That’s quiote a setlist and experience! Shame they didn’t play All Is Vanity, my new fave song of theirs, but otherwise it’s setlist heaven! I remember being high for a few days after my first Manics gig… they know how to give a show!

  5. It’s nice to hear from Manics fans in the US… it’s rather easier to see them here in the UK (I’ve seen them at V Festival 2007, the O2 Arena and at the Civic Hall in Wolverhampton). My favourite band too, excitement and intelligence rolled into one.

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