Meltdown at the Royal Festival Hall is always a much-anticipated event, with past luminaries such as David Bowie and Yoko Ono curating the ten day festival of music on London’s South Bank.
This year is no exception, the legendary Robert Smith of The Cure is at the helm and has created a series of sell-out gigs, including Placebo, My Bloody Valentine and Nine Inch Nails.
Tonight’s show will see the Manic Street Preachers take to the stage, but first, the incredibly talented Catherine AD – The Anchoress – and her band play their first gig of 2018 to an appreciative crowd.
Catherine has become a familiar face to Manics fans, a fabulous rendition of Little Baby Nothing at the Eden Project in 2016 (as reported in the Zine UK) led to recording the duet Dylan and Caitlin on the Manics latest album, Resistance is Futile.
Taking to the stage in a leopard print suit, Catherine literally wears her love for the Manics on her sleeves and the band open with the epic song ‘Long Year’, taken from her debut album ‘Confessions of a Romance Novelist’.
The understated lighting suits the atmosphere of the song and the addition of another keyboard player adds an extra layer to the sound. Catherine is currently working on her second album and the band debut a new synth-laden track, ‘Show Your Face’.
The half-hour set is over way too quickly but Catherine reveals she will be back later for a certain duet with the headliners.
The Festival Hall is full to capacity for the Manics arrival, but there won’t be any jostling for position down the front tonight, it’s a seated venue and the familiar Barrier Girls who queue for hours to claim a spot on the front row are conspicuous by their glittery absence.
At least everyone is on their feet when the Manics appear and open with recent single ‘International Blue’, it’s great to see Nicky Wire is back on stage (and in a very fetching jacket).
The band have teased there may be a few surprises for tonight, James thanks Robert Smith for inviting them to play, even though he says, ‘no-one great has ever asked us to do anything ‘. There is a huge cheer as he announces ‘this is our Cure cover’ and the band perform a perfect version of In Between Days.
As promised, Catherine joins the band for a rocking performance of ‘Little Baby Nothing’ and ‘Dylan and Caitlin’, and then the hits continue with ‘Everything Must Go’ and ‘If You Tolerate This, Your Children Will Be Next’.
Wire says the last time they played the Festival Hall was for a Heavenly Records event, and James launches into the opening riff of their 1991 Heavenly Records single ‘Motown Junk’.
A voice from the crowd shouts ‘Sleepflower!’, the Manics joke that someone shouts for this epic song at every gig and they NEVER play it, but hold on, James starts the riff …. the riff continues .. he turns to Sean in expectation of the drums kicking in .. and .. nothing. Oh Sean, you spoilsport!
The hits continue with an acoustic version of ‘Faster’, followed by ‘Kevin Carter’ and ‘You Love Us’, as well as tracks from the latest album ‘Hold Me Like A Heaven’ and ‘People Give In’.
As (almost) always, the last song is ‘Design For Life’, and James and Wire bounce and scissor-kick around the stage while the crowd sing every word.
The band disappear and the lights go up, there are shouts of ‘more! more!’, the Manics don’t do encores, but it’s worth a try, as how ever long the band plays its never enough.
Words and Images by Lorna Cort.
Many thanks to Gillian at Hall or Nothing and Gaby at the South Bank Centre
The Zine UK’s very own Dead End Dolly. Epic Photographer and Manic Street Preaching photo-journalist with a love for cats.