All the gigs of my life: Gig 55 – Manic Street Preachers, Saturday, March 31, 2001, Brixton Academy

Day two of 2001’s Manics Weekend is one I will never forget, but for all the wrong reasons.

Most of my memories of this day are things I didn’t write in my diary. I remember waking up this Saturday morning in a truly untouchable mood. I’d just been to one incredible Manics gig, and had another in front of me that night. Life didn’t get much better than that. Then I remember being out at an optician’s appointment, and the sudden, world-obliterating pain, the worst abdominal pain I’d ever experienced. I remember crawling back home to my tiny Chelsea room and curling up into a little ball of agony for the rest of the day.

And then I remember being on the tube to Brixton, the pain somewhat lessened but still pretty strong, thinking to myself, ‘is it really such a good idea to go to this gig’?

I didn’t start my diary entry for this gig until four days afterwards, and this is how it started:

“Belated report: Manics Cure My Worst Stomach-Ache Ever Miracle Shocker! Collapsing in agony all day, drag myself to Brixton and dance like a loony for an hour or so, pain-free!!!”

I remember walking into the standing area of the Academy, seeing a large crowd already there in front of me, as I was a little later getting there than usual. And the moment I took my spot in the crowd, the pain was gone. After such a miserable day, to find myself suddenly completely pain-free, AND about to see my favourite band in the world, was the most exhilaratingly, intoxicatingly joyous experience I’ve ever known. I don’t know what mix of adrenaline and happy brain chemicals kept me going that night, but damn, it was good. Even four days later I was still clearly possessed by, as I put it, the ‘luntic cheery-ness’ of the night.

And they did “Faster” and James did “Raindrops” in his acoustic bit, the old singalong of lunatic cheery-ness (“under neon loneliness, lunatic cheery-ne-yehess”) and humourous and witty types from the balcony above chucked their drinks over the edge so – hey! – raindrops (or rather beerdrops) were indeed falling on our heads. “I ain’t gonna stop the rain by complaining”

And then he did “Small Black Flowers That Grow In The Sky” which was utterly utterly life definingly great. As usual.

Oh! and “Yes” was introduced as a song from Party Hits of the 90’s. And two of the most glorious tunes were “You Stole The Sun From My Heart” where the atmosphere palpably ignited every time James sang “I love you all the same!”, and “Tsunami” with its glorious sky rocketing “in between in between in between in between!” leading into that blazingly euphoric chorus.”

It’s incredible to reflect on how much energy I had that night, after a day being immobilised by pain.

I hadn’t been so possessed with leapin’ about and hollering along since the first Wembley gig of Dec ’98. There’s something to be said for Not Going Down The Front Every Single Gig Of Your Life.”

At the time of this gig, I was a few months away from finding out what had caused the awful pain, but in the end it turned out I had endometriosis. I had a difficult road ahead of me, full of tests and pills and hospital appointments and surgeries which continue to the present day. But at least I was able to forget all my worries and dance like a loony for an hour or so at the start of it all, and as ever, I have the Manics to thank for that.

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