posted on December 04, 2008 05:29
Manic Street Preachers (live in Hong Kong)
Review Snapshot: Great show, but why didn't the avowed socialists come play Red China?
The Cluas Verdict? 9 out of 10
Opening with Motorcycle Emptiness, the Manics made the best of a bad turnout in Hong Kong to deliver a stash of their hits and a cover of Nirvana’s Penny Royal Tea. The new and the old, Autumn Song and Faster came early on, followed by that solid cover of Rihanna’s Umbrella, which has become a staple of their live set on this tour.
It’s strange that the supposedly socialist Manic Street Preachers came to Hong Kong, the most capitalistic piece of land in Asia, rather than north to Beijing? The Chinese capital’s gritty soul and priceless layers of bittersweet history and colourful characters reads like a Manics songbook. Maybe it's because they're scared of bumping into their old collaborator Kylie Minogue - she got a mention during the Hong Kong set - has been in these parts lately.
Or maybe it’s because, whatever their protestations, the Manics’ fanbase has now graduated, married and become the 30-something office jockey, a creature found in abundance in Hong Kong’s skyscrapers. Down in Kowloon Bay, the HiTech Star is a hall in a mall. I should’ve expected it but the Hong kong convention centre address is a bit misleading; cake shops, Cantonese cuisine and karaoke all abound in this place. Taking the elevator to the fifth floor for the balcony seats, I was shown inside with the usual Hong Kong friendly efficiency. That can be annoying: a security man politely kept us back from the glass barrier - not becuase it was dangerously crowded up there, but because we'd smudge the glass by getting too close. There were plenty of disinterested faces in the sparse balcony crowd, lots of quizzical locals who didn’t know the songs and were obviously along for a look.
It got better when I moved downstairs for Masses Against the Classes. A HK$50 (EUR5) pint of Carlsberg in hand I strolled up to the second barrier from the stage and watched the rest of the show with a local fan who appeared like he really wanted to look like Richey Edwards and complained at the end that the band didn’t play Kevin Carter.
The Manics trio is now buffeted by several travelling musicians, one of whom, introduced by James Dean Bradfield as “Mr London Irish Sean Reed" played some lovely saxophone on Ocean Spray. The acoustic playing of “Mr London Irish” number two, Wayne Murray, seemed a bit mechanical at times. Bradfield excused any propensity to falsetto on him having a cold, but all was forgiven when the frontman took the acoustic guitar himself for a heart-rending Black Flowers, introduced as “one of Richey Edward’s finest lyrics.”
Nicky Wire's comparatively conservative wardrobe for the night - a white suit - may have been chosen to fit the sterile surrounds. Real fans might have been thin on the ground, but everyone moved to Bradfield's "cerebral drinking song," Design for Life. Suit jacked slung over shoulder, the gwailos (local slang for foreigners) let a screech of recognition for Everything Must Go, introduced as “from the cool days of Britpop.” Raised beer tumbler in the air and neckties loosened, they were having a good time by the time the houselights went on, after a glorious Send Away the Tigers.
I went home happy I got great value for my HK$440 (EUR44) ticket and the airfare from Beijing. Next time I hope the Welsh communists will come up north to visit their lapsed brethern.