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Manics In Smokin' Cuban Gig, Daily Mirror, 19th February 2001

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Title: Manics In Smokin' Cuban Gig
Publication: Daily Mirror
Date: Monday 19th February 2001
Writer: Nicola Porter

Rock giants Manic Street Preachers took Cuba by storm when they became the first big-name British band to perform live in the Communist enclave.

The boys from Blackwood blasted their way into the history books in front of a 5,000-strong Havana crowd.

And even the man himself - Cuban leader Fidel Castro - turned up for the sell-out gig that has been the talk of the town for weeks.

Fidel, who is a political hero of the outspoken Welsh stars, even met up with the band before enjoying his first rock concert.

He sat throughout the concert while thousands of wide-eyed fans danced and cheered to their first taste of live rock - Welsh style.

The Manics threw the traditional record company marketing strategy in the bin by launching their latest album in Cuba.

Scorning the opportunity to unveil their latest hits in London or America, they jumped at the chance to take their unique brand of music to the island.

Saturday night's show marked the first time a British band of their stature had been allowed to play on the island.

And the concert was a massive coup for the Manics, who had an army of Cuban fans on their feet for most of the evening.

Castro's presence at the extraordinary gig was seen as a sign that Cuba is prepared to open its doors to Western culture.

The world leader met the band privately before the show - and even shared a joke.

Outspoken bass player Nicky Wire smiled as he shook hands with Fidel, and warned the ageing leader: "We might be playing quite loud."

Fidel smiled back and quipped: "It won't be as loud as the war!"

The concert itself was sparkling Manic mayhem, a mixture of hits from the band's 10-year career and new songs from the forthcoming Know Your Enemy album.

Stood in front of a massive Cuban flag backdrop, and with Nicky Wire's Welsh flag flying alongside it, this was a United Nations summit to behold.

The young local fans, who were all given free tickets and a souvenir Manics flag for the show, were completely blown away by the spectacle and volume.

A few were wet-eyed with wonder, and most wasted no time in jumping out of their allotted seats to rock the night away.

A local trumpet player joined the band onstage for a performance of old hit Kevin Carter, a brief moment of homegrown salsa jazz sounds meeting the Welsh wall of sound.

There was a sensitive moment too, as singer James Dean Bradfield took the stage solo for two acoustic numbers, Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head and Baby Elian.

The poignant new song was inspired by last year's much-publicised custody wrangle for toddler Elian Gonzales between the United States and Cuba.

To force the point they are back in business, they even played a double encore - the first encore the band have ever played.