NME asks if it was weird to be back playing 500-capacity venues after a summer of festivals?
James: "Yeah. It feels schizophrenic. I suppose it's a bit like starting again, but it's strange and liberating at the same time. I was scared at first. I remember all the gigs we've done here, the Limelight, CBGB's, Maxwells, and this gig was definitely the best one we've ever done. I'm just glad we didn't bottle it. A lot of bands come over here and say, 'What are we doing?' It just felt good to do it."
Does America matter to you?
"Number one, we haven't got any strange force behind us telling us to come here. If it didn't matter, we probably wouldn't be here, though, would we? It doesn't matter to us in a gung-ho sense, we don't think we're going to conquer the land of JFK. We're much more realistic and mature about it these days. In 19-fucking-94 everyone was asking us questions about whether it was important to break it. We're not trying to break it, we're just trying to make a connection."
America has always been bad for you, though, hasn't it? Richey's disappearance pre-US tour, Oasis cancelling...
"It's about time to break the voodoo then, isn't it?"
Nicky made an oblique reference to the Welsh nationalism issue onstage and called the NME 'Thought Police'. How do you feel about it?
"It means what it means. I'm in New York now, I can say stuff like that. It is what it is. That's it on that one."
What next for the Manics?
"This is our last tour and then we shut up shop, we won't be playing again until the millennium gig and after that we're not going to be doing a gig for at least a year. Well over a year, I think. We just feel that we've got another stage of the Preachers to go for. We haven't got much material yet, but the stuff we have got is fucking brilliant."
Is it going to be like 'Masses Against The Classes'?
"No, that's much more flippant. Whenever we do an album, every track is affected by the preceding track, and we just want to do one song which isn't affected by a whole big agenda. We want to do something flippant and offhand for us, and not for anyone else."
NME criticised the Manics this summer for being bloated stadium rock, did that affect you and make you want to write a 'Masses Against The Classes'?
"We're not thick cs! You'll never hear us saying, 'Journalists are just failed musicians. It doesn't matter what they say.' We're objective about it, if there's one valid criticism out of 100 points we'll always take it on board, but it definitely stung a bit. We worked like this when we were younger too. Around the time of 'You Love Us' we had a load of bad press, and we did react against it. I don't think it's an unhealthy thing. Obviously I think a lot of it was just tinpot buffoonery, but one or two of the points made were valid... I'm not saying which ones, mind. OK?"
Such renewed confidence! The Manics on top form... 24 hours later, their second New York gig is unceremoniously cancelled at the last minute. Something to do with "the singer's throat". It all seems so miserably familiar. With the prospect of more gigs being pulled (they were due to play Boston the following night), the plight of the Manics in America seems worse than ever.