Manic Street Preachers singer James Dean Bradfield was the surprise star guest at a concert for Kosovo in South Wales.
It was the first time James had played in his hometown of Blackwood for 10 years - and the first time he has played a solo set in this country. Only 400 tickets were available for the all-seated gig on April 30 at the Miners Institute in the town. A swift sell-out, the event was organised by Nicky Wire's poet/playwright brother Patrick Jones. Also on the eclectic, 19-strong bill were
Richard John Parfitt, singer with Newport's 60ft Dolls, former Alarm frontman Mike Peters, Big Leaves, Martyn Joseph and Derrero.
Welsh legend Max Boyce, billed on the night as "the greatest living Welshman", turned up to play a 10-minute set, as did members of the Welsh National Opera, a local primary school and three volunteers from a recent aid convoy to Croatia.
A charity auction of rare, autographed items from the Manics, Stereophonics, Catatonia, David Bowie, Radiohead and Kylie Minogue were put under the hammer in a charity auction after the show.
James played five Manics songs on acoustic guitar, including "This Is Yesterday ' from 'The Holy Bible", which he dedicated to missing bandmate Richey Edwards.
He also performed "Small Black Flowers That Grow In The Sky", "Further Away", "A Design For Life" and You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next", the song which benefited most from its de-bagging. According to one observer: "It rang most awesomely around the tiered seating of this unlikely venue, earning the biggest ovation of all."
James also revealed from the stage why it had taken him so long to come home to play. He asked the crowd: "Is there anyone called Cecil here?" Four hundred kids and the Mayor shrieked back, Yes."
James continued: "Because the last time I was here, he bottled us off. That's why we haven't been back." Four hundred kids and the Mayor kept quiet.
He wouldn't speak to reporters before or after the gig, telling a local journalist: "I just want to go on and do my bit." James' appearance had been kept a closely guarded secret until the day of the show, when he gave permission for his name to be released to press.
According to organisers, the concert sold out "a matter of seconds" later. Co-organiser Scott Lavender said: was an incredible night. We've raised somewhere between £6,000 and £7,000. We don't have a final figure yet, because we're still getting the money in. There are some lots left over and these will go into another charity auction to be held at the Miners' Institute in the near future."
James spent much of the evening hanging out backstage with Richard John Parfitt. Pafitf's set - the only electrified performance of the night - included two Dolls songs, 'Summer Has Gone" and
"Spanish", as well as a ceremonial trashing of Big Star's "Thirteen". Big Leaves, who have recently supported Catatonia, played a song about "being drunk" and Mike Peters played a handful of tunes including the Alarm hit, "A New South Wales". The biggest reception - beside that resened for James - went to Max Boyce, who took the Blackwood stage to perform his comedy classic, "Hymns And Arias". was asked if there was anything I could give to auction. There was nothing suitable, so I pledged myself."
Patrick Jones, exhausted after his first promotion for charity, said: "I am just proud to be part of it. It just started off as a little idea. Now it is mega for Blackwood and the set we've got is amazing. It's really been a team effort with everyone working hard together to get the acts we have."
The star attraction of the fundraising auction was a Manics platinum disc for "This Is My Truth Me Yours", donated by Nicky Wire. lt fetched £400. Patrick Jones' own mint copy of the Manics' rare, debut seven-inch single, "Suicide Alley", given to him by his famous brother, fetched £230. And a set of Polaroid photographs taken by Nicky for an exhibition in Cardiff raised £220. Other items offered for sale were Kelly Jones' Doc Martens and a rugby ball signed by the Welsh team that recently beat England.
James' last and only other solo set was at an Irish-themed pub in Santa Monica, California, back in January. A promotional performance for Virgin Records and EMI Music Distribution, the four-song set on that occasion included "The Everlasting" and "You Stole The Sun From My Heart", along with "A Design For Life" and "If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next".
Bradfield has made no comment about his involvement with the Kosovo benefit or his feelings about the Balkans situation. A spokeswoman said: "He felt strongly enough and said, f**k it, I want to help somehow.' And he especially wanted to help Patrick."