"Thank you," calls out Manics frontman James Dean Bradfield - before a curious frown spreads across his brow, gesturing as the band recover from 'Australia'. "That was Britpop, call it whatever the fuck you want - it was ours."
Amen. To label the band as another Britpop 90s legacy act would be criminal. Over the years, they've been snotty glam upstarts, bile-driven masters of spikey post-punk, stadium gods, folky troubadours, purveyors of elegiac electro and everything in between. If there's one thing the Manics deserve more credit for, it's the sheer breadth of sonic territory they've covered - while always maintaining the values of working class pride and the constant search for knowledge and truth at their core.
Suffice to say, they've been through a fair few evolutions - the most remarkable would surely be on Everything Must Go; the album we're here to celebrate overnight. After the disappearance of co-lyricist Richey Edwards, the band shed their military uniforms and camo paint, and with no masks and nothing to hide behind they returned with their most open, honest and human record. It's that raw-nerved nature of the album that makes every moment of the show tonight feel electric.
Rivalling 'Yes' for the greatest album opener the Manics have produced, 'Elvis Impersonator soars as sky-reaching treasure and an oh-so-Manics sideways look at the adoption of cheap American culture at the most unlikely of places. The crescendo brings fans around the many vast corners of this iconic venue to their feet, where they remain for the ultimate anthem for defiance with 'Design For Life'.
"This is working class empowerment," howls Nicky Wire over the bridge - and he's not wrong. Many an album of its era are simply mass unit-shifting summer soundtracks, but what gives Everything Must Go its edge and brings so many of us here tonight, is that its an album that changes lives. Not just for the catharsis of change through tragedy that runs throughout, buts its marriage of the universal with the literate.
While the band may come with a manifesto of sorts, their ultimate message is to think for yourselves. Their songs are signposts and question marks, which tonight make the likes of 'Kevin Carter' glow with an opulence that so few bands are capable of nowadays - with the band hitting the peak of this on 'The Girl Who Wanted To Be God'; a wash of catharsis on on this utterly triumphant Wire/Edwards lyrical collaboration that again spits out Sylvia Plath.
The band too deserve credit for their sheer presence. Whether searing through the crystal-cut guitar of 'No Surface All Feeling' or soulfully crooning through 'Small Black Flowers That Grow In The Sky', Bradfield is statesmanlike in the total control he commands of the stage and the audience. Sean Moore is the ultimate foundation as a human drum machine, but of course your eyes can never escape the scissor-kicking sass of the ultimate Nicky Wire - not to mention his ever-sharp with and banter. "That's the only reason I agreed to these gigs," he smiles, "I get three costume changes."
The fact that they stand so firmly on top of their game becomes all the more apparent in the second set - inspiring the ecstasy that can only come from an overwhelming barrage of so many classics. Naturally 'Motorcycle Emptiness' and its unquestionable greatness sounds all the more magnificent in a venue such as this, while the punky cheek of 'Nat West-Barclays-Midlands-Lloyds' was probably never intended for the Royal Albert Hall when they debuted it in toilet venues back in 1991, but its prediction of the banking system bringing about the apocalypse sees its place more than earned tonight.
The aching beauty of their new cover of '(Feels Like) Heaven' by Fiction Factory is a welcome curveball of curiosity, while 'Walk Me To The Bridge' from the immaculate Futurology brings us racing into the present; proving that they're a band still driven by a compulsive creativity, and still have so much to give.
Everything Must Go is a monument to starting again, and tonight's show is a celebration of life, re-birth and finding hope through despair - realising that each end is a new beginning. In celebrating the past, we grow ever more excited about what the next chapter holds for the Manics. They're just so good at starting again, and may that never end.
Manic Street Preachers played:
Elvis Impersonator: Blackpool Pier
A Design for Life
Everything Must Go
Small Black Flowers That Grow in the Sky
The Girl Who Wanted to Be God
Interiors (Song for Willem de Kooning)
No Surface All Feeling
Suicide Is Painless (Theme from MASH) (Acoustic)
Ocean Spray (Acoustic)
Walk Me to the Bridge
Your Love Alone Is Not Enough
You Stole the Sun From My Heart
Roses in the Hospital
Show Me the Wonder
(Feels Like) Heaven (Fiction Factory cover)
You Love Us
If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next
Manics' remaining UK tour dates below. Tickets for those shows are on sale now. For tickets and information, visit here.
17 May LONDON, Royal Albert Hall*
20 May LEEDS, First Direct Arena*
21 May GLASGOW, The SSE Hydro*
(*all with Editors)
28 May SWANSEA, Liberty Stadium
(with Super Furry Animals and Public Service Broadcasting)