Manic Street Preachers – review

Barrowland, Glasgow
Their blood-and-guts punk hubris may have softened over time, but this is a band on rum form: fast, loud and full of significance

Manic Street Preachers' excellent 11th album Rewind the Film continues a run of material that might be the Welsh band's best since the early 1990s, and its Krautrock-inspired sister record, Futurology, is due early next year. If there's such a thing as songwriting Viagra, the Manics must be on it as they approach three decades of action as a band.

Like bassist/lyricist Nicky Wire's self-styled "fuck up of fashion" attire, and solemn tributes to missing bandmate Richey Edwards – his memory honoured late on with a snarling Revol – visits to the Glasgow venue have become a Manics institution: they have played here once for every studio album they've released. But banish thoughts of complacency. Beginning with Motorcycle Emptiness – a to-the-point opener – this is a band on rum form: fast, loud and full of significance.

It's impossible to know what Edwards would have made of the acoustic guitars and brass deployed by the Manics of 2013, or of a middle-aged male fan base who, where they once may have agonised over what colour to dye their hair before a gig, are these days perhaps glad if they've got any hair left. But while the form may have softened from the blood-and-guts punk hubris of You Love Us towards more stately singalongs à la Show Me the Wonder, the content remains potent. Sung solo by frontman James Dean Bradfield as part of a rousing midway acoustic interlude, the pretty This Sullen Welsh Heart's deceptively stinging rumination on parenthood and loneliness reflects painfully real personal politics, while, towards the end, 30-Year War fires a final broadside of bolshie anger at Thatcher and "old Etonian scum", to the sound of the Last Post trumpet and a shuddering electronic beat.

The new album's title track misses Richard Hawley's velvety guest croon, though it would be miserly to suggest any song led by Bradfield's tremendous Welsh tenor – still the most powerful weapon in the Manics' arsenal – could want for anything vocally. The finale climaxes with Kevin Carter, Motown Junk (prefaced with the riff from the Skids' Into the Valley and A Design for Life) – its second verse turned over entirely to the crowd as Bradfield stands back to drink in the moment; it's tantamount to experiencing one of rock's greatest rituals of communion between a group and their fans. Wire signs off by revealing that the venue is already on hold for April, suggesting Futurology's ETA, and the opportunity to experience it all over again is in this audience's diary even before they've left.

• Did you catch this gig – or any other recently? Tell us about it using #Iwasthere


Malcolm Jack

The GuardianTramp

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