Manic Street Preachers - Manchester Apollo - 28.3.01

Should I Stay Or Should I Go? Its the question I find myself asking a couple of hours before tonight's show. Its not that I don't care. Perhaps its that I care too much. You want the good memories to remain intact and not to see a band who were once so special lamely plodding along. And after listening to the "Know Your Enemy" album I'm still none the wiser. When they hit the stage to "Found That Soul" you feel as if its all been worth it. The blood, sweat and tears really do matter. Amongst a stark stage Nicky Wire doesn't disappoint looking like an archetypal PE Mistress. Just small Welsh and Cuban flags adorn the speakers - its a far cry from the stadium shows of huge backdrops and slogans. If the opener was a fair indication of where they are today, you only have to hear the opening notes of "Motorcycle Emptiness" to realize that their glory days are far behind them.

When they bait the Beastie Boys on "Freedom Of Speech Won't Feed My Children" you have to ask is the Manics allegiance to Cuba any more meaningful then The Beasties Tibetan Freedom Concerts. Maybe its just me but it said it all when they couldn't explain the coke cans on display at the Cuban press conference. If anything though parallels can be drawn between Morrissey and the Manics - does anyone remember Mozzers fascination with Boxing and his rumoured Mexican direction. Replace Mozzer with Nicky, the Union Jack with a Welsh Flag, an allegiance with Mexico and an allegiance with Cuba. Here we are - MSP 2001. Despite James' guitar heroics it always will be Nicky who steals the limelight. While not being the strongest vocalist his Mark E Smith style on "Wattsville Blues" and the "Braindead MuthaFuckers" refrain on "Miss Europa Disco Dancer"  really do stand out.

Naturally ending with the double whammy of "You Love Us" followed by "Design For Life", its a fitting finale to an amazing gig. Even if the records don't mean so much anymore there is no doubting that live they can blow the hardest rock band away with ease. The only fear is that deep down I feel they don't know when to give up. Some may say they've done it already, but there would be nothing worse than them releasing several more half hearted albums just in the vein hope that they may recreate the glory days of "Generation Terrorists".

Alex McCann

Set List

Found That Soul, Motorcycle Emptiness, Masses Against The Classes, So Why So Sad, Kevin Carter, Ocean Spray, Stole The Sun, La Tristessa Durerra, Yes, Let Robeson Sing, Motown Junk, Freedom Of Speech Won't Save My Children,

Paradise City / Baby Elian (Acoustic), This Is YesterDay (Acoustic)

Miss Europa Disco Dancer, Wattsville Blues, Australia, Tsunami, If You Tolerate This, You Love Us, Design For Life