Review: Welsh stalwarts Manic Street Preachers keep the faithful satisfied
It's hard to believe it's been 23 years since Manic Street Preachers first came to Belfast.
But the Welsh alternative rock stalwarts still remember their debut visit fondly.
At Saturday night's Ulster Hall show, bassist Nicky Wire gave a shout-out to DJ Johnny Hero, who chaperoned them back in 1990.
"Since the days of the Limelight, it's always been an absolute joy and a pleasure coming here," added frontman James Dean Bradfield. Time hasn't dulled the unique, vaguely cartoonish appeal of The Manics.
He may be 44, but Wire refuses to tone down the garish garb and can still scissor-kick for Wales, while Bradfield, also 44, continues to pogo, pirouette and crank out the riffs and solos with abandon.
Their audience, on the other hand, haven't worn so well, and the girls who found a pin-up in the band's late, tortured rhythm guitarist Richey Edwards seem to have moved on if Saturday's mostly male, fortysomething throng was anything to go by.
But the faithful couldn't fault a setlist that ranged from early punky numbers like Motorcycle Emptiness, You Love Us and Motown Junk to more acoustic-based material off the trio's new album, Rewind The Film.
Yet the highlight was arguably closing song A Design For Life, which is even grander and more anthemic in a live setting – and had the entire hall roaring back the words.
Manic Street Preachers crammed a lot into an hour-and-a-half, and left without going through the charade of an encore – perfect.