In 1994, the Manic Street Preachers released their third album, The Holy Bible, a harrowing 13-song statement on human suffering that has often been branded as the band’s masterpiece. Following its release, just before the band was due to tour in the US, songwriter and guitarist Richey Edwards disappeared never to be seen again in what has become one of rock and roll’s more infamous mysteries (Edwards was declared legally dead in 2008). The tour was cancelled, and the album was never toured stateside.
For the 20th anniversary of the album, the band has chosen to rectify this by playing the album in its entirety on a series of US dates (their first shows on this side of the Atlantic since 2009). Monday night’s show at the 9:30 Club not only marked the first US performance of the album, but also the band’s first appearance in Washington, DC. “We’ve never played Washington before, and I’m fucking glad we came,” declared bassist Nicky Wire partway through the show. And DC was glad to see them too, as fans cheered and sang along with songs that many of them have been listening to for years but have never gotten to see live. While the band has been highly successful in Europe, selling out stadium shows, in the US they’ve retained more of a cult following. For an hour and a half in the packed club, though, they seemed like the most important band in the world, with fans who had travelled from all over to see the album make its US debut.
After finishing the album, the band left the stage briefly. Singer and guitarist James Dean Bradfield came out alone to play an acoustic rendition of “Small Black Flowers That Grow in the Sky” from the band’s 1996 album Everything Must Go, and then was rejoined by Wire and drummer Sean Moore to play a short six-song set of favorites from the band’s career, including “Motorcycle Emptiness” and “You Love Us” from their debut album Generation Terrorists and “If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next” from their 1998 album This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours. Only one track, “Walk Me to the Bridge,” represented their most recent album, Futurology.
If there was any disappointment to the evening, it as only that this latter set was shorter than what the band had been playing on their earlier dates on the tour – their earlier UK stops on the Holy Bible tour got an average of five more songs per night. If there was concern about overwhelming the potentially less familiar US audience, the band needn’t have worried, as the crowd was hanging on every note. Hopefully they won’t wait for years to return.
All photos by Matt Condon. Click to embiggen.