Unlike Massive Attack who manage to completely squander the phenomenal peer Of songs like "Safe From Harm" and "Inertia Creeps" by shuffling about the stage as though sweeping it in preparation for the real talent. In a sense they are, too, since their set sweeps away all our good sunny-weather vibes and leaves us feeling suitably miserable for the inevitable shambles that the Manic Street Preachers are bound to be.
Except it doesn't quite turn out that way. Hand on heart, this must be the best show MSP have ever, ever played. Let's start at the end, with a pant-flashing Nicky Wire destroying not only his gear, but Sean and James' too, then stalking the stage for minutes like a long-legged puma dressed as something out of "Braveheart" before a celebratory dive into a hysterical and bewildered crowd. Stunning behaviour (in every sense), effortlessly matched by his adorably puerile pronouncements throughout the show, ripping into perfectly chosen targets like The Beta Band ("drunken
arseholes") with a relish not seen since the days of that Levellers feud. On his day, Nicky's still a legend, but the music sucks dog these days. That's what you're thinking, isn't it?
Oh boy. You are so wrong. Tonight, MSP are everything they ever were in 1991, plus everything they quite never managed to be in 1994, plus everything they pulled off in 1996, minus everything
they descended into last year. That'd be the loudest, loveliest, most emotional band in the world, then. From the furious slaughter of "Faster" to the double speed take on "Everything Must Go", this is the sound of complete and utter victory. When "Motown Junk" rears up, caustically angelic, it becomes clear: this is the moment they always fought for, not the softly-softly AOR sham of Reading 1997; these are the songs they always burned to play before thousands, not "EMG", not "Australia". This is the real Manic Street preachers, not the wreck we'd thought would finally sink tonight. Damon Hill can do what he likes, but if this band breaks up now, it'd be the greatest tragedy imaginable.