Manic Street Preachers Cardiff: Nicky Wire exclusive on his 'terror' about gig and his thrill at hearing Richey's words played
The bassist spoke to us ahead of tonight's homecoming concert in front of 10,000 fans when he also revealed how performing's taking its toll
Cardiff Castle is bathed in glorious sunshine.
The historic jewel in the Welsh capital's crown is resplendent as summer threatens a prolonged stay.
A stage has taken shape in its stately grounds and despite a large area of camouflage hanging from the imposing frame, it's frankly doing a none-too-convincing job of blending in.
It's the day before two musical worlds collide and the sense of anticipation is palpable.
In fact, the city has never quite seen anything like it.
On the evening globe straddling pop colossus One Direction take to the stage at the Millennium Stadium, fantasies made real for their teenage audience, a stone's throw away for someone with a very strong arm, one of the most enduring stories in rock 'n' roll will unfold at the medieval landmark when Manic Street Preachers perform the final UK date of their Holy Bible tour.
Striding around the castle grounds taking pictures and soaking in his surroundings, ask bass player Nicky Wire how he's feeling ahead of the show and the response is not the one I expect.
“Terrified,” he laughs. “Homecoming gigs are always the most nerve-wracking. On this scale, outdoors, the amount of stuff involved, I'm very excited but also very nervous.
“I can't believe how hyped it is, it seems more hyped than when we played the Millennium Stadium (on New Year's Eve 1999).
“There's an expectation and an atmosphere in the city. When I walked into the hotel today Brian Wilson (of The Beach Boys, who played Cardiff Motorpoint Arena last night) was there.
“There's such immense goodwill which makes it even more scary, because we've got to pull it off now, but we always feel like this when it's a hometown gig. It's probably a good thing because it keeps you on edge. Just because you're coming home you can't take it for granted.
“I don 't know if it's because we're doing The Holy Bible or because we're older and times have changed and it also being televised. (on BBC Wales),” he adds.
“When we booked the gig I never thought it was going to be televised, so all those things combine to put added pressure on.”
Revisiting The Holy Bible
Playing The Holy Bible in full in the first half of the show, followed by a career notifying set in the second, this ambitious task has taken a toll on the band - James Dean Bradfield, Sean Moore and Wire himself.
Not least on the bass player's knees.
“It's been such a challenge,” he says. “It still is. It's the hardest record to play. Physically my knee has gone, the cartilage went in my left knee at the show in Southamption (Guildhall), now I can't really jump around. At least I can move now but I've got supports on.
“The real privilege is, because it's so hard to play, doing it as a full album is certainly better than chucking in the odd song in.
“And to hear Richey's words travel the universe, his nearly 21 year old now masterpiece of lyrics, is a massive thrill.
“To see the impact it has had on people's lives frames him as a brilliant writer, which is very important because there's always a lot of other stuff surrounding him.
“The lyrics, the excellence of his words, which are not easy for James to sing, to see the effect his words and the album has had has just been brilliant.”
Putting the proposal to play the castle to rest of the band, Wire admits his colleagues needed convincing.
“We sold out the Motorpoint Arena on the Futurology tour, so we didn't want to do it again. We were scratching our heads. I think the castle is the only venue we haven't played but James and Sean's first thought was that it was too big for The Holy Bible.
“I felt very confident that it would be a special event. We could have played two nights in all honesty.”
Wire lets slip that he didn't think the band would even have been in a position to have staged this grand show if it hadn't been for the success of their last studio album.
“I don't think we could have done this if Futurology hadn't done so well. Undoubtedly, that was when we were debating the castle gig. When the album went in at number two and we had such fantastic reviews, we thought 'wow we feel so relevant', this is the time to do it."
When we discuss how quickly tickets sold, with a nod to the Manics' disparate fanbase, Wire quips: “I just hope people realise it's The Holy Bible we're playing.”
Which raises an interesting debate, does he expect two distinct sets of fans to populate the show; the camo-ed up, mascara smeared, leopard print hardcore for whom The Holy Bible is their favourite album and the middle-aged mainstream, who jumped on board when the band broke through with the Everything Must Go album. Does he expect these two groups to swap ends either half?
“There might well be a bit of that," he muses. "There has been at some of the gigs in all honesty. I'm quite comfortable with that.
“We've gone on about how many different versions of the band there are for many years.
“There's the ferocious intensity you get of the hardcore when we play The Holy Bible and the second set turns into a very emotional celebration of the history of the band.”
Ask Wire what we can expect from the show and he's cagey to a point, although he hints there will be a few special moments created solely for the castle show.
“On the first leg of The Holy Bible tour we were playing obscure b-sides, this time Condemned To Rock 'n' Roll (from the Manics' debut album Generation Terrorists) has been the star of the whole tour. It's been phenomenal. So there will be those kinds of oddities, but there will be a few surprises.”
Post-Cardiff Castle, it's clear the Manics need a break - a well-earned one at that.
Ask if they will be going away for a little while after the final note has been struck on stage, the bass player's response is succinct and direct.
“Yes. We've got two more Holy Bible shows in Tokyo and Osaka to play then that's it for a whole."
And nobody would begrudge them a break I proffer.
“Exactly I think it would be a relief for people,” he jokes. "I can't deny that we haven't written a song for a while now.
"After Rewind (The Film) and Futurology, lyrically I need to recharge my batteries. I've written so many words in the last few years,” Wire laughs ruefully. “Since Send Away The Tigers that's been five studio albums in seven years. I need to reevaluate my lyric writing."
For now there's the little matter of writing another eventful chapter in their incredible story - and the promise of an incredible night in Cardiff, even if it does mean drowning out One Direction across the road.
“There could be a severe mash up of styles,” Wire grins, imaging the result of The Holy Bible's dark intensity clashing with Harry Styles and co's perma-grinned manufactured pop.
“Imagine walking between the two venues and hearing that in between.
“The Intense Humming Of Evil mixed with their version of Teenage Kicks.”
Frankly, some things just don't bear thinking about.