I decided on the spur of the moment to buy a ticket for the Manics’ gig at Edinburgh’s Corn Exchange venue a few months ago. I’d done it with enough time to spare that I could arrange two days holiday from work either side of the weeknight gig to meet up with people and allow myself some recovery time the day afterwards. However, I didn’t bother looking for a hotel as I though I’d have plenty of time to get the train back afterwards. It would turn out that I had been both far and short sighted…
I don’t really know Edinburgh; despite it being an hour away and allegedly the capital of my country (because it has a castle or something), I’d only been three or four times previously. Last summer I met up with Maya from New York, and she showed me around. But I decided to go anyway, mainly because it gave me the opportunity to meet up with some other fans of the Manics I’ve met online.
And I’d arranged to meet relic, otherwise known as Jeanette, who is one of the mods on Forever Delayed. For whatever reason we get on quite well, so when I saw she was going to the gig, I suggested we meet up before hand; Manics fans have a tendency to gather together in packs near the venue for anything up to six months before the doors open. She was up in Scotland by herself, and so we did meet up in Princes Street gardens. There was a Christmas market set up, and we had something to eat; being an alumni of a Black Country uni (a? The…) I couldn’t resist the hot pork and stuffing sandwich, and rel had some crepes. Then we had a discussion about the difference between the internet and real life, especially how it’s almost impossible to pronounce internet abbreviations in real life, and how daft you feel calling someone by their online user name.
About sixish we got the bus down to the venue, some three miles out of town. Lothian buses are apparently among the best in Britain, and I had no complaints with the outward journey. We went into the pub next to the Corn Exchange where we had a couple of drinks and met up with Rob and his friends. I met Rob at James Dean Bradfield’s solo gig last year, and he’s famous for being the guy who provides crystal clear bootlegs of a good deal of the Manics’ gigs.
The gig itself; support act Cherry Ghost were interesting if slightly dull; they didn’t begin to pick up the tempo until their last couple of songs. But before too long, the headliners made their entrance; the emergence of Nicky’s glitterati bestowed mic stand was greeted with a cheer, and the band came on to the strains of their recent b-side instrumental ‘The Vorticists’, and launched straight into a muscular version of their early classic ‘Motorcycle Emptiness’, a song that continues to grow and improve with age, with its live incarnation generally just edging the recorded version. A greatest hits with the additional curveball followed…
Everything Must Go
Roses In The Hospital
I’m Just a Patsy
Slash ‘N’ Burn
La Tristesse Durera
Your Love Alone Is Not Enough
You Love Us
If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next
Suicide Is Painless (Theme From M*A*S*H) (Acoustic)
The Everlasting (Acoustic)
Send Away The Tigers
She Sells Sanctuary / Motown Junk
Little Baby Nothing
You Stole The Sun From My Heart
The Masses Against The Classes
A Design For Life
The addition of Sean Reed on keyboards/saxophone and Wayne Murray on guitar has really fleshed out the Manics’ sound in recent years. For a while in the 90s and early 00s they struggled to recreate their increasingly sophisticated records in a live context, but now they have a little more versatility at their disposal. Even Nicky, a musician regularly mocked for his lack of technique, has improved noticeably in the last few years; maybe that’s just confidence. James had regularly prefaced ‘Motown Junk’ with snippets from other songs; this had generally tended to be ‘Baby Love’ by the Supremes, or ‘Into the Valley’ by the Skids when in Scotland, but this abridged rendition of the Cult’s signature song was a full band affair, and pretty impressive all told.
James’ acoustic section was a delight as ever; he played a wonderful, delicate version of ‘The Everlasting’, a song he seems to hate, but which is, in my opinion, glorious and verdant and luxurious and one of their most affecting compositions. The verse progression is like an Escher drawing, which continues to climb and circle and modulate before conspiring in a blissful affair with the much simpler chorus. Unfortunately any acoustic version suffers from missing the recorded version’s guitar solo, possibly the most gorgeous piece of instrumentation James has ever committed to…er, digital…thingy…0s and 1s.
After the lights came on and the excruciating Christmas single was played over the PA (yes, Christmas single), I made a sharp exit, retrieving my jacket from the cloakroom and making my way outside; I hate lingering in venues and pubs after time has been called, which places me in 0.001% of the population.
It was only about 10:45 at this point, and I had 45 minutes to make it to the station before the last train left. The bus arrived at a few minutes after 11; 30 minutes to traverse 3 miles; this wasn’t going to be a problem, was it? The bus passed Haymarket station, which was the first stop the Glasgow bound train reached after leaving Waverley, and I thought about getting off, but I dallied and missed the chance. ‘No matter’ I thought, the train guide said there was one at midnight leaving from Waverley, even if I missed the half eleven one. This was at around 20 past. It then took the bus nearly ten minutes to travel a mile along a deserted Princes Street, something I will never understand how it managed as long as I live.
And then, after sprinting from the bus stop down to the platform, I find that not only has the train left, but that 11:30 is the time of the last train between Scotland’s capital and its largest city. Not quite sure what to do next, I phoned my mother to find out where the bus station was, something that in their wisdom, the city council had decided not to signpost. My mother really isn’t the person I should phone in these situations. But I eventually did find it, a doorway tucked between two other non-descript buildings only to discover the last Glasgow bus had already left.
Now, I’ve been stranded in a city before, and when that happened, I slept rough. In a graveyard. In a thunderstorm. But I really wasn’t in the mood for doing that this time around. And some of the small number of people on the streets could testify this, as I stomped around swearing loudly at the lack of signage, and the general shitness of auld Reekie, compared to civilised bastions of society, like the dear green place. So instead I phoned my mother and asked her to come and get me. Childish I know, but I was really pissed off at this stage and longing for my bed; standing up in a sedentary position for any length of time causes extremely uncomfortable pain in my lower back, knees and feet, and I wasn’t a fan of putting up with the cold either. My mother wasn’t a huge fan of driving into the city centre, so I arranged to meet her at Edinburgh Airport, where she’s worked a few shifts in the past. And around an hour and a half after this I was back home and in my bed.
Suffice to say, I slept until 1pm; when I did get up, I did nothing more strenuous than play guitar and converse with my second cousin on Bebo. This was part of my plan that came off, having a day off to recover after being at the gig; I can’t imagine how horrible I would have felt at work today, despite the fact I didn’t really drink at the gig. I had football at 6pm though, and my word was that hard work. We’ve been somewhat struggling for numbers recently, and so John McDonald has played the last two weeks despite being one of the oldest guys there and struggling with a calf injury. He played the entire game in goal last week, and did the same for about half the game tonight. I was on his team, and as I’m perennially under-exercised, I struggle when I can’t get a breather for a bit. John was mockingly calling me Jay Boyd before the game, because I tend to just linger around up front and shoot a lot; I’m nowhere near as good a player as Boyd, but we evidently both grew up watching Ally McCoist play, as we have similar styles, although tend to hit shots as early as possible more often.
I scored six or seven tonight, but somewhat depressingly they all came from similar runs; after a while you begin to wonder if the goals are coming because of your movement or because whoever’s supposed to be marking you is having a Homer Simpson moment. The latter opinion was reinforced when I Stern Johned a shot against the bar from a few yards and their keeper shouted “Come on, mark up! It’s the same guy doing the same thing all the time!”
I’m better at that end of the pitch though; on one of my occasional forays back to help out my defence, I cut out a pass; my team-mate George shouted “well done,” only for both of us to then see the ball sail into the top corner of my own goal. Had I meant it, and had it gone in at the other end, it would have been a great finish. Alas, it wasn’t.
And I’m really tired now; my feet hurt from the football, but my brain is just worn out. Still, as I’m taking the rest of the year off from writing fiction, and I’m only at work for another 14 days of the year, I hope it’ll have lots of time to recover.