Manic Street Preachers appear to be in turmoil after calling off the American tour they were due to start this week. Sadly, this is due to James Dean Bradfield's mother being "gravely ill".
The band, understandably, are taking a break, to enable James to spend as much time as he needs with his family. But while their press representative states that this will nat affect their long-term plans, Nicky Wire has predicted that the band's New Year's Eve gig in Cardiff's Millennium Stadium will probably be their last for two or three years.
Ironically, all of this came to light on Sunday (July 11) when the Manics headlined T In The Park with what many consider to be one of the most inspired and exciting performances of their career.
And it follows the band's shock cancellation of a show the weekend before, at the Rock Werchter festival in Belgium.
Then, there were rumours of a split or an argument within the ranks, with some sources insisting that Nicky Wire had stormed out, leading to speculation that the band might not show up at T In The Park.
The Maker bumped into James Dean Bradfield backstage at the Scottish festival before the Manics' set, and it was then that he broke the news of his mother's illness. After a warm handshake, he said he was looking forward to the show.
"We only just got here from Wales. It'll be good, it'll be great"
Referring to the rumours of the previous week, we asked if the band had any plans for the near future.
"No, not really, I'm not sure," he replied, suddenly looking downcast.
Not realising tie circumstances, we wondered if the American tour, due to start in Atlanta on Thursday (July 15), was still going ahead.
"No," he said, shaking his head. "Well, there's a load of family stuff right now. My mum's really ill."
The Manics' spokeswoman told us: "The tour has been postponed. We don't know how long for. James' mother is ill, gravely ill, and we're just going to give James some breathing space. It's awful news. I went to the funfair today and felt guilty for having a smile and a laugh. This made the day feel very sad."
Asked if this would affect the Manics' long-term future, she said: "No, of course not. We're going to let James spend some time with his mum and dad. I'm surprised he's doing [T In The Park], but he really wanted to do it."
Later, after the incendiary performance, Nicky Wire appeared on BBC TV. Talking about the Manics' Millennium Eve extravaganza in Cardiff, he declared: "It's going to be our last gig for a hell of a long time. I can't see us doing another gig for two or three years."
Their representatives had no comment on this as we went to press.
Earlier in the week, on Thursday morning, James had been in higher spirits. Running into him unexpectedly at Newport Station, we asked him about the Manics' last-minute withdrawal from Werchter.
He confirmed what had been said in the official explanation, that he had strained his voice and needed to rest it, while admitting that the past year had taken its toll on on the band. He seemed confident the US dates would be going ahead, he shrugged off the "split rumours", saying: "No, its like that. We have just reached the end of 12 months of touring and promotion. I lost my voice and I needed a rest. It was just a case of tour psychosis. You just get sick of travelling. But we are still doing the tour of America."
At T In The Park, the Manics played a set which showed a renewed energy and, notably, a huge sense of nunual warmth, strength and support. For a band reported to be on the verge of splitting, there was no hint of any tension. They seemed closer and more cohesive and collectively driven than they had in ages, with James and Nicky exchanging friendly banter throughout.
Before the closing "A Design For Life", with the band celebrating each other for the public, James proclaimed: "There's only one, there could only be one, Mr Nicky Wire!"
Nicky had been on especially excitable form, verbally lambasting his least favourite bands and stoking up a new feud with Billy Brag that had started at Glastonbury with the singer/songwriter slagging the Manics for having their own, exclusive toilet.
"This one's for Billy Bragg," said Nicky of "Australia". "I wouldn't want his dick pissing in my toilet for all the money in the f***ing world."
He also appeared to declare war on Stereophonics, who had previously complained about not being invited to join the Manics' Millennium Eve bill. His words were indistinct to everyone we spoke to, but all believed that after a wholesale trashing of the band's gear, with Nicky as the most enthusiastic wrecker, it did sound as though he made some disparaging comment about Stereophonics' attempts at instrument-bashing the day before.
It was the sort of explosive and dangerous Manics gig that we have long assumed was a thing of the past, and it perhaps bore out Nicky's recent assertion that the band's new material, specifically a song called "The Masses Against The Classes", would herald a return to confrontational and challenging music.
James' farewell made an appropriately punky reference to the Sex Pistols: "Goodnight! Get pissed! Destroy! Love you loads. (And describing the audience) Perfection indeed!"
And Nicky Wire knew when the going was good: "That 20 million times better than Glastonbury
and that bunch of dickheads!"
Even hard-bitten critics of the band were left reeling by the performance.
One told us: "It was very, very, very exciting. It's exactly what they needed after being so dull for so long. I personally think it's the best show they've ever played. I've never seen them that good, ever, ever, ever, ever. It was an absolutely amazing gig, incredible, just mighty. It was a huge, massive, great, fantastic piece of pop music, what theatre critics would call a triumph. Just 'Wow!'