AUGUST 17, 2019
Hardwick Hall Hotel
Sedgefield, Co, Durham

I made my first trip to the UK ever to see the Summer Sessions show in Glasgow featuring the Cure, with The Joy Formidable, The Twilight Sad, and Mogwai. I had researched looking for other bands to see while I was over there. I found the Hardwick Live Festival with Manic Street Preachers headlining Saturday. I have listened to the Manics since hearing “La Tristesse Durera (Scream to a Sigh)” and “Life Becoming a Landslide” on college radio in the early ’90s. Hard to believe people in north Louisiana listened to cool British music. I have the Manics’ albums, greatest hits collections, and even B-side compilations. I judge my love for a band by how far I would travel to see them. Well, I obviously like them a lot, because I took the trip by myself through the east side of England to see them. I felt pretty certain I would never get the chance to see Manic Street Preachers in the U.S., so I figured I better seize this moment. A couple of train rides and a cab ride finally brought me to the beautiful site for this festival.

As night time crept in, James Dean Bradfield, Nicky Wire, and Sean Moore hit the stage accompanied by an extra guitarist and keyboardist. And to my surprise, they opened with a set-closing worthy song, “Motorcycle Emptiness”. Second was another favorite of mine, “You Stole the Sun From My Heart”, then “International Blue” off of their 2018 album. I love this song, and it easily fits in with all their famous hits. Next was “La Tristesse Durera”, probably my favorite Manics song. So I was wondering how the rest of the show would go after hearing three of my favorite Manics songs in the first four. But no worries, they have plenty of good songs. James also makes it easy to keep up with the set list by telling a bit of a story or just simply announcing the title before each song. After a long string of songs, everyone else departs, leaving James with his acoustic guitar. He performs “Ocean Spray”, then messes around with his guitar until everyone realizes he is riffing “Tequila”. When he reaches the right point, the crowd yells “Tequila”. James stops and says “I see you know the lyrics”. It was all great fun. He is then joined by piano for “Suicide is Painless”. (video below)  As the rest of the band returns, James says the next song will be one they have been playing at all their summer shows. And he announces it is just good ol’ rock and roll fun, then rips into the famous guitar intro of “Sweet Child O’ Mine”. They perform the song as well as Guns n’ Roses might wish they could do themselves. And the crowd loved it. They finish with “Tsunami”, “All Surface, No Feeling”, and the sing-a-long “Design for Life”.

To be very picky, I could have traded a couple songs for some of my personal favorites. But that is just asking too much. This set list was all you could ask for. They were a perfect headliner for the festival. It was their last show of the year. I thought I might see more scissor kicks from Nicky (ha!), but they sounded wonderful. And I have always loved James’ voice. It is powerful, like almost a scream, but always under control. It made me very happy that I went through all the trouble to get there. I never thought I would get the chance to see Manic Street Preachers. It was very improbable that I would ever see this Welsh band in concert.  I may never get to see them again, but it certainly is one of the coolest things I have done to see a band.

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