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Cuba Gig For Manic Street Preachers -, 13th February 2001

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Title: Cuba Gig For Manic Street Preachers
Date: Tuesday 13th February 2001

Radical British rockers The Manic Street Preachers are to give a free concert in Havana this weekend.

Officials say it will be the highest-profile gig by a Western group in communist-run Cuba since 1979 when Billy Joel played there.

The three-man band, from Wales, will perform at the 5,000-seat Karl Marx theatre on Saturday, on the same stage where President Fidel Castro delivers many of his speeches.

The Manic Street Preachers "profess a special interest and admiration for Cuba, which is why they are giving such importance and showing such emotion over their first time in front of the Cuban people," the local Cuban Music Institute said in a statement.

The event, organised by the institute and Cuba's Culture Ministry, is invitation-only.

The audience will be made up of members of youth organisations, universities and local music circles.

"They are playing freely in Cuba, so we are not charging anything, and there is not going to be any economic benefit from this concert," an institute official said.

A statement released by the Manic Street Preachers, however, said tickets would cost 25 cents each -- a typical price for a show in Cuba where culture is heavily subsidised by the state.

Western rock music was frowned upon as a "decadent influence" in the early days after Castro's Revolution, and some Cubans today recall being harassed for having long hair or being caught listening to the Beatles.

But that attitude has changed lately. Castro recently inaugurated a statue in honour of murdered Beatle John Lennon, calling him a fellow revolutionary persecuted by the CIA.

"This is the biggest concert by a Western band in Cuba for about 20 years, and we are delighted it is British," said Michael White of the British Council, a UK cultural promotion agency helping to organise the concert.

British media reported The Manic Street Preachers will unveil their sixth album, Know Your Enemy, in Havana.

"It could be a disaster," bass player Nicky Wire was quoted as saying. "There might be no PA or whatever but it's the idea that it is a bit of an adventure."

The band reportedly chose Cuba because it was the "last place that holds out against the Americanisation of the world."

The U.S. government has maintained strict foreign sanctions against Castro's regime for four decades.