V2002 wowed by Greatest Hits set, while hundreds of ecstatic fans cause NME signing tent chaos.
Manic Street Preachers brought V2002 to a standstill in Chelmsford on Saturday, during a frantic day of activity that included a low-key acoustic performance, a chaotic appearance at the NME signing tent and a triumphant greatest hits set to close the NME stage.
Their comeback kicked off just before 7pm when frontman James Dean Bradfield played a two-song solo set in a packed Virgin Radio tent. Following 'Motorcycle Emptiness' and 'A Design For Life', he told NME the band were looking forward to playing live again.
"It's not really a live comeback," he said. "But we won't be doing a lot of new stuff so it feels like much of it is nostalgic. I'm a bit nervous."
Explaining why, as 11th hour replacements for Travis, the Manics decided to play the smaller NME stage rather than the main stage he said: "It was all very last minute. We thought it being the first show for a while it was a bit too much pressure to go on the main stage and thought the NME stage was the best route. We're all ready. We're not high-fiving each other in the dressing room or doing weights of anything, but we're ready and looking forward to it."
Bradfield, joined in the Virgin Radio tent by drummer Sean Moore and bassist Nicky Wire - the latter dressed in a Soviet military jacket and huge sunglasses - the raced round to the NME signing tent to be greeted by chaotic scenes.
Several hundred fans, many who'd queued for two hours in the afternoon sun to meet their heroes, descended on the small tent. Though the Manics were booked for 15 minutes, they stayed almost double their time to try and meet demand. Still, hundreds of fans were left disappointed. May fans were who met the band were tearful.
"They're the only reason we're here," Helen Griffiths told NME. "It was brilliant, just brilliant," said Gareth Flynn. "And James was looking very slim."
Items signed included old singles, tour posters and a copy of Catcher In The Rye.
Thousands of fans then descended on the NME stage to see the band, who performed as a four-piece with a keyboard player. With a simple stage set devoid of their usual sloganeering backdrops, the Manics played an 18 song greatest hits show. Despite the fact Nicky Wire recently told NME the band had written 14 new songs, including potential singles 'Forever Delayed' and 'There By The Grace Of God', they played no new material.
Opening with 'Motorcycle Emptiness' the show spanned their entire career, from the classic early singles 'Little Baby Nothing' and 'You Love Us', up to recent single 'Ocean Spray'.
Bradfield said little throughout, but introducing 'Masses Against The Classes'. he announced "I am going to be like a wedding singer here, I'm going to try to lead you in this song."
And before show closer 'A Design For Life' he said simply: "This is a song about fucking."
Fans were ecstatic. "It sounded big and hard," said Debbie Allsop. "It was sexy."
"I've seen them a few times now and that was easily the best. 'From Despair To Where' is the best song they ever wrote. I'm glad they played it. They're the best," said Terry Booth.
The Manics then took their show to Hylands Park, Staffordshire on Sunday (August 18).
They release a greatest hits compilation 'Forever Delayed' in October.