Manic Street Preachers sparked rumours of a split at the weekend when they pulled out of a European festival hours before they were due onstage. The band simply cited "personal reasons" when they called off their appearance at
the Rock Werchter Festival near Brussels, Belgium, on Sunday (July 4).
They had been due onstage at 3.25pm. The announcement of their withdrawal was made just a little earlier, at 10am. The festival organisers said: "Manic Street Preachers had to cancel their performance at Rock Werchter due to personal reasons. We have no further details so far. They will not be replaced. We start 15 minutes later on the Main Stage."
Rumours immediately swept the festival site and the backstage area that the Manics had split Another theory doing the rounds was that one member, probably Nicky Wire, had "thrown a strop" and stormed off home. However, the Manics' spokeswoman issued a denial later that day. She said: "James strained his voice at the Roskilde Festival [on Thursday, July 1], and he just needed to rest it. You can say categorically that the band have not split up, and they're looking forward to T In The Park at the weekend." The T In The Park organisers have confirmed that the Manics are still set to headline Sundays bill.
The Maker was present at Rock Werchter when news came of the cancellation. Kelly Jones of Stereophonics told us: "We're going on at half eleven instead of five past eleven. That's all it means to us." Asked what had happened, he said: "Well, its probably bollocks, but the festival stage manager said to our stage manager that we were going on later cos the Manics had split up, but then we just got told that one of them had gone off or something. Who knows?"
Robbie Williams was no wiser. Talking about the rumoured split he said: "That'd be really sad if they had, cos they do good songs and they're good pop stars, gotta be said. But I reckon if they have, they'll all go on and do something brilliant anyway. Hey, they could join my band. I've nicked that skippy move from Nicky Wire, after all."
One industry insider told The Maker that he had heard something serious had happened, and admitted that he had taken five calls on his mobile about it the previous day. He refused to elaborate, but did not deny rumours of tension or problems in the Manics, saying: "I couldn't possibly speculate." Scott Thomas from the Manics' booking agency, ITB, told us on Monday: "James' voice had got strained at Roskilde. On Friday, fine, but at noon on Saturday, it became obvious he wasn't going to be right for the show me next day. Unfortunately, there was a communication breakdown. The Manics' tour manager left a message which didn't get through for some time. There was a
problem with mobiles on the site."
Meanwhile, out among me festival-goers, there was confusion and disappointment. Lucy Straates and Ilona Van De Bildt, both 17 and from Holland, were still tearful when we stopped for a chat.
"I think that's the biggest disaster," said Lucy. "That's why we came here to Werchter, to seethe Manics. We heard just when we got here that they weren't coming. It was so terrible that I couldn't help crying, especially when I heard that one of them had quit the band. I think its Nicky Wire. Maybe it's only a rumour, though. There's hope, I guess."
Ilona added: "But if it's true, then I feel utterly f***ed. I already feel cos they aren't here. And this cost us a lot of money, of course, but that doesn't matter nearly as much."
"I think they should have announced it sooner," said Lucy. "I'm really angry about it, actually. We were looking forward to them."
The Manics had seemed to be taking the festival very seriously, having issued a special Rock Werchter edition of "This Is My Truth...with two CDs and live tracks.
It's been a controversial festival season for the band so far this year. They were berated by singer/songwriter Billy Bragg at Glastonbury, after allegedly commandeering their own private toilet cubicle backstage.
Bragg photographed a VIP area Portaloo which featured a sign saying: "These toilets are for the exclusive use of the Manic Street Preachers. Please respect this. Thank you." "Nice, socialist gesture, lads," blustered
Bragg. "I have to say it really annoys the shit out of me."
Asked if the sign had been put up in jest or as a prank by someone else, a band spokeswoman said: "We're not here to give feedback on the Manics' toilets." She did, however, deny reports that the band had hired the whole of the nearby Babbington House Hotel, saying: "They did stay there, but didn't hire the whole thing."
Also at Glastonbury, Nicky Wire talked enthusiastically about forthcoming Manics material. He told Radio 1's Jo Whiley that the band will release a new as their next single in October or November. He described the song, "The Masses Against The Classes", as very noisy and angry and said it has "lots samples which we'll probably get sued for".
One source close to the Manics told The Maker: "I think Nicky may have jumped the gun a little."
Their spokeswoman said: "He may have it in mind, but it's a long way off and he may choose something else in the meantime."