Llangollen N Wright

LIVE: Manic Street Preachers / Suede – Llangollen Pavilion, 28/06/2024

There’s nowhere quite like Llangollen. It’s a town that has such an aesthetic beauty – with rolling hills and the picturesque River Dee – that every time I come here I can actively feel the serotonin levels rising. It also has great memories attached to it for me, as I grew up twenty miles down the road and saw Super Furry Animals and Catatonia perform here at the height of Welsh music’s popularity in the 90s’. It seems like a lifetime ago now, but the memories remain vivid and make me feel a sweet nostalgic glow.

The Pavilion venue is often used for the annual Eisteddfod festival and also hosts a series of summer concerts, with everyone from Bryan Adams to The Kaiser Chiefs playing the 6000 capacity venue this year. Tonight the venue plays host to the first night of a tour that brings two bands together that inevitably feel a kinship, due to their ‘no compromise’ attitudes and desire to create their own cultural statements of intent. Both the Manic Street Preachers and Suede have passionate fan bases that often overlap, so a joint tour was always on the cards someday and no better time than the present.

By the time Suede enter the stage, the crowd is swelling inside the venue and ready to hear the hits – and they don’t disappoint. It’s a rousing start to the set, with ‘Trash’ and ‘Animal Nitrate’ played early to get this crowd going. “What does it take to turn you on?” sings Brett Anderson, thrusting his hips and gyrating to the beat with more energy than a performer half his age. It sounds less like an inquiry to a lover and more an instruction for the crowd to latch on to.


The band sound just as urgent and driven by a lust for great performance as they always have; there’s plenty more evidence on show as the set progresses. ‘We Are The Pigs’ shows just how they can transform the intensity of their performance, almost at the flick of a switch. ‘Filmstar’ is just as decadent and camp as it should be, with Anderson again leading from the front like only he can.

The chance to debut a new song is often too much to resist, even for rock veterans like Suede and so it is here. ‘Antidepressants’ is not perhaps their most immediate of works, but it adds a touch of class to their cannon. It’s introduced by Anderson whilst taking the opportunity to re-align the union between these two bands this tour allows: “We don’t have too many friends in this industry – we’re miserable bastards – so we can count on the fingers of one hand who they are , most of them are The Manic Street Preachers!” Perhaps those antidepressants have kicked in after all these years.

The set concludes with some of the band’s biggest hits of their career: an exquisite ‘So Young‘ manages to get a crowd of 6000 Welsh people singing “Let’s chase the dragon!” at the top of their voices. It may not be the dragon intended in the lyrics, but the Welsh never fail to take the opportunity to sing about dragons if it’s offered. The set ends on the glam stomp of ‘Beautiful Ones’ which allows us all to shake our bits to the hits and it’s a sublime ending to a wonderful set.

It’s a tough act to follow, but The Manics are on home territory here and they come out with the big guns. It’s a testament to the sheer quantity and quality of their output, that guessing an accurate set list in advance is getting harder to do than it used to be. Some are obvious mainstays, like the ever-present ‘Motorcycle Emptiness’, which still sounds huge; even more so with the crowd singing back every word in full voice. ‘A Design For Life’ resonates and inspires the room and ‘You Stole The Sun From My Heart’ ignites a mosh pit down the front.


There’s always a chance that The Manics will throw in some of their deeper cuts and they do here. I have a bank of about 8-10 songs from the band that I would like to see them play live; ranging from the ‘Maybe possible’ to the ‘Less likely than Rishi Sunak watching an episode of ‘The Simpsons’ in the 90s’. To my surprise and delight, two of these are played tonight. A thrillingly passionate ‘Elvis Impersonator: Blackpool Pier’ gets an airing and you can hear a pin drop as they rifle through the euphoric ‘No Surface, All Feeling’.

As she has done at previous gigs in recent years, Catherine Davies aka The Anchoress joins The Manics on stage for two tracks tonight. The first is ‘Little Baby Nothing’ from Generation Terrorists; a track that was initially sang on the album by Traci Lords; Davies’ vocals giving it a different, more accomplished feel in comparison to the original. She then takes over from The Cardigans’ Nina Persson on the crowd-pleasing ‘Your Love Alone Is Not Enough’ and her contribution is gratefully received.

There’s some late drama in the set as the band have to stop playing midway through ‘You Love Us’ as someone catches the eye of Nicky Wire who appears to be struggling with injury or illness. Wire calls for a first aider to get to the stage as soon as possible and it’s not clear from my vantage point whether it’s as serious as it seems. Thankfully, the momentum of the gig is not interrupted for too long and the person seems to be fine, so the band launch back into ‘You Love Us’ with a ferocity that didn’t seem to be as prominent the first time around.

Ending on a poignant version of ‘If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next’ , the band send the crowd off into the night content and thoughtful. With the week to come potentially changing the course of British Politics, The Manics felt like a little reminder to get voting on Thursday might be in order. The old BBC mantra of ‘Inform. Educate. Entertain’ springs to mind as the Manics continue to do all in equal measure. Long may that continue.

Photos: Natalie Wright, Cuffe & Taylor.

God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.