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Manics Preach To The Converted - The Western Mail, 1st January 2000

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Title: Manics Preach To The Converted
Publication: The Western Mail
Date: Saturday 1st January 2000
Writer: Darren Waters
Photos: Rob Norman


As the clock struck twelve inside Cardiff s Millennium Stadium the Manic Street Preachers' crowning moment as Wales's most important rock band was shared by 57,000 fans.

The concert fulfilled its promise to be a true Manic Millennium - a celebration of the past, the present and the future.

New Year's Day 2000 may just be another day on the calendar but for the crowds, and, I suspect, for the band also, the Manic Millennium concert was a crystallisation of something happening in Wales beyond the steel girders of the stadium, and beyond Cardiff.

A new-found confidence, a new Wales; whatever you want to call it Wales is at last finding its voice and the Manic Street Preachers are one of a growing number of artists who are writing the soundtrack.

And it was a soundtrack that threatened to shake the very foundations of the stadium - no wonder that engineers were worried about the integrity of the stands before the concert.

The red, white and green of the Welsh flag under the closed roof of the Millennium Stadium, protecting the throng from Cardiff elements, was visible from all parts of the stadium.

If one combined the joy of every time Wales beats England at rugby - of every Triple Crown and Grand Slam - that would be a close approximation of the atmosphere enjoyed by the audience who were there to be more than just entertained by rock bands.

Unlike rugby matches, this time the crowd was on what was once the pitch, and the result was never really in doubt.

But this was not a concert of petty nationalism. There were chants of "Wales Wales" but this was about inclusion not exclusion.

Poet and playwright Patrick Jones, the brother of Nicky Wire, performed one of his poems together with actors Ioan Gruffudd. Matthew Rhys and Reiki Ayola, to start the concert.

A rock concert, and even a rugby stadium, is not the usual venue for poetry reading but this audience was quickly into the spirit of the occasion.

And what an occasion.

They may been diametrically opposed musically but the Super Furries and the Manics are owned by Wales and as such fans of one band have respect for fans of the other.

Shack and Feeder played small sets and it wasn't until the Super Furries appeared that the crowd seemed to awaken from slumber.

But the Manics were what the concert was all about. James, Sean and Nicky - the latter dressed in a fetching pink dress - appeared, and it was time to wave goodbye to 1999.

You Stole The Sun From My Heart opened act one, with James in raucous mood and the crowd responding.

The only disappointment was that the sound in the stadium, transformed into a magnificent arena, was surprisingly quiet.

Everything Must Go was ripped into by the band, as well as tracks Tsunami, and new single Masses Against The Classes.

The three-piece band seemed to fill the stadium effortlessly, with lead signer James offering a casual "Ta!" after one song, putting behind him the nerves of the previous day.

The Manics have found as many critics as supporters over years, but inside the Millennium Stadium they seemed a world away from Cardiff University where they played their first gigs.

As a thank you to those loyal fans, as the last song before the new millennium, James Dean Bradfield dedicated Motorcycle Emptiness.

Powerful, painful but, importantly, bringing all of the crowd to its feet it brought 1999 to an end on a high.

And if we have any sense in Wales, we will never come down from that high.