After their third song, Of Walking Abortion, frontman James Dean Bradfield addressed the sold out crowd: ‘You seem up for the grim ride. It’s no summer picnic, this album.’
The Welsh rockers were performing their acclaimed third album, 1994’s The Holy Bible in full.
It was the last album they recorded with guitarist and band ideologue Richey Edwards before he went missing and was eventually declared dead in 2008.
The remaining trio bounced back with Everything Must Go, which finally saw them achieve the commercial success to match their critical status.
In the interim The Holy Bible has been hailed as a classic and age has not withered its anger, vitriol and sadness.
With lyrical subject matter ranging from The Holocaust to eating disorders, American imperialism, despotism and serial killers, it’s a far from easy listen.
Performing as a trio for the album’s duration, the area to Bradfield’s right, where Edwards once stood, is pointedly left empty.
It’s no surprise to hear the singles from the era such as Faster, She is Suffering and a particularly spiky Revol played live. But tracks such as Mausoleum and the aptly titled The Intense Humming of Evil are stark and powerful.
And when bassist Nicky Wire recalls the last time the band played at the Guildhall with Edwards back in 1994 (and something involving ‘Johnnie Walker and a kiwi’) it brings a huge cheer.
But while this was at times difficult going, I spent much of it with goosebumps.
The ‘full album’ show concept has been diluted since it first appeared a few years ago, as some less-than-classic recordings have been given the treatment.
But that is not the case here. As the band exorcised their demons, the audience’s response was proof of the album’s worthy classic status.
After a short break the band returned, now joined by an extra guitarist and keyboard player.
However, this was no straightforward run through their greatest hits. There were a brace of tracks from new album Futurology, Walk Me to the Bridge and a live debut for the anthemic Sex, Power, Love and Money.
And the sprawling closer to their debut album, Condemned to Rock’n’Roll also received a rare outing.
The band seemed far more relaxed in the latter half, even if Wire was unable to perform his trademark star-jumps due to ‘arthritis in my left knee.’
A lumpen Golden Platitudes was only low point as it brought the crowd to a standstill.
But with early single You Love Us and A Design For Life bringing things to a rousing fist-pumping close, the Manics proved they still have plenty of fire in their bellies.