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"Three Gigs In Two Weeks, With Lots Of Rugby In Between - It Was A Bit Of A No-Brainer..." - The Western Mail, 1st May 2013

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Title: "Three Gigs In Two Weeks, With Lots Of Rugby In Between - It Was A Bit Of A No-Brainer..."
Publication: The Western Mail
Date: Wednesday 1st May 2013
Writer: Nathan Bevan

Manics plan tour schedule around Lions down under.

They may have named their 2007 hit album Send Away The Tigers, but this summer will see the Manic Street Preachers instead shouting "Bring On The Lions!" The Blackwood rockers are to mark their return to performing live after a protracted spell away from the spotlight with a handful of Antipodean dates to coincide with the British and Irish Lions' tour Down Under in June and July.

It's a transcontinental road trip which bass player Nicky Wire, a self-professed, life-long devotee of the sport, described as "three gigs in two weeks, with lots of rugby in between - it was, as decisions go, a bit of a no-brainer".

Although the 44-year-old conceded that, given the lipstick-smothered glam rock aesthetic of the band's early days, many fans would have been forgiven for assuming him more likely to wrap a feather boa around his neck than an officially licensed supporter's scarf.

"That's true, but while making ourselves up to look like the New York Dolls may have meant we didn't always fit in down the working men's clubs, we'd always be glued to the TV whenever there was a match on," he told the Western Mail.

"And, while it may not look it, I was a pretty dedicated sportsman back then - captaining the school football team, playing for the local district and even trying out for the Welsh Youth side.

"I was a bit of a Franz Beckenbauer in that I could play any position, although I was always way too soft to play rugby," added Wire.

"I learned that harsh fact very quickly."

However, he soon realised his true talent lay elsewhere.

"When you're coming to school dressed like Morrissey with daffodils hanging out your jeans pocket, you know something's got to give," he said.

"It was either sport or music and I knew deep down that I just wasn't good enough to make a go of the former. Besides, me and James [Dean Bradfield, the Manic's frontman] had started writing songs by then and there was a real kinetic magic between the two of us.

"So I was always destined to be more of a watcher than a player really."

As a result, Wire confessed to having witnessed plenty of good and bad moments during his time as a rugby fan. "There's been some truly magical highs and some really tragic lows - I think Wales' supporters, more than any other country's, have experienced the entire gamut of emotions in that respect," he said.

"I can remember recording our Gold Against The Soul album in 1993 in a massive studio in the hinterlands of Surrey and the whole band sitting around screaming at the TV as Ieuan Evans went over the line to score the game's only try and give us a 10-9 victory over England in Cardiff.

"Another occasion I'll never forget was dislocating my shoulder at the last ever match at the Arms Park in '97 when Rob Howley pulled off that amazing sidestep before going on to score.

"I just threw my arms up and leapt into the air, at which point I felt something pop, followed by the most hideous pain I'd ever experienced in my life," Wire added.

"Still, agony aside, that moment of sublime skill from the scrum-half encapsulated the amazing feats which we as a rugby nation are capable of."

But even he would never have believed Wales would be capable of its recent return to the glories of its '70s heyday.

"I was a teenager in the '80s and recall it being such a barren period for us, so to have seen victory in three Grand Slams alone during my lifetime is quite unreal.

"And to win the most recent Six Nations after that disastrous opening against Ireland - just incredible. A lot of credit should go to underrated players like Ryan Jones who, in my opinion, is very much our generation's Richard Hill. Like him, we won't fully realise just how good Jones was until he's gone."

What is more, Wire added that the Manics couldn't wait to get back to Oz.

"We were last there in 2010 but have never managed to coincide with a Lions tour before, that's the Holy Grail for rugby fanatics.

"It'll be like a busman's holiday for us as we're playing Melbourne and Sydney on the eves of the second and third test matches - plus, in between, we're also getting the chance to pop over to do a gig in New Zealand for the first time ever.

"Hopefully we'll get tickets to watch the games live as well," said Wire.

"Who knows, maybe we'll even get the once in a lifetime opportunity to play a few songs on the pitch before kick-off too."