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No Cuban Crisis For The Manics - City Life, 21st March 2001

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Title: No Cuban Crisis For The Manics
Publication: City Life
Date: Wednesday 21st March 2001

The Manic Street Preachers might stand accused of 'Havana' laugh as they embarked on perhaps their most ambitious tour to date.

Instead of choosing the easy option of selling out Cardiff's Millennium Stadium to kick proceedings off, the Welsh rockers hit upon the bright idea of cranking it up in the capital of communist Cuba.

The result was a dubious mix of good and bad publicity about the former 'punk' outfit's desire to rub shoulders with communist Fidel Castro in a venue named the Karl Marx Theatre. I kid you not.

But despite the Welsh band's penchant for political comment, Nicky Wire insists that there is no need for cynicism.

There was an element of making a stand against global Americanisation, but for the most part the trip was simply an act of kindness for music fans who have missed out on their fair share of rock 'n 'roll in the last few decades.

And besides, the band say they actually found the 75-year-old Cuban leader quite charming.

"In five years people will look back and see it as a good gesture," insists Wire, the group's lyricist and spokesman, explaining why the Manics loaded their entourage onto a jumbo jet.

"I felt some kind of empathy, really," adds Wire, who admits that he fell for Castro's wit and charisma.

Political or not, the true purpose of the Manics' trans-Atlantic trip must have been a vehicle to promote the new album, Know Your Enemy, which was released on Monday.

It's a work unlikely to make the Manics too popular in America, a country the band cockily promised to crack in their early guise as punk upstarts with words like 4 Real slashed into their arms.

Those were the days before troubled former frontman Richey Edwards disappeared without trace, never to be heard of again.

And now it is a more finely polished set of musicians we see on stage, with James Dean Bradfield providing the vocals and drummer Sean Moore preferring to hide his light under a bushel.

Similarly, the Manics' style now is fewer caustic anthems than it was for early anthems such as You Love Us.

These days their political leanings see them sing about baby Eilan, the young Cuban "kidnapped to the promised land", and the catchily titled Freedom Of Speech Won't Feed My Children.

But they still promise to turn up the heat when they bring their peculiar brand of political pop to the Manchester Apollo on Tuesday and Wednesday (March 27 and 28).

The crowd will include fans of six albums - a startling statistic given the relatively short period of time the band have been together.

But the new, more polished Manics can still cut it - with the single So Why Sad in the charts and the new album expected to chart prominently this weekend.

"It's about reconnecting with the records we loved when we were growing up," Wire adds.

"We're trying to sound like a young band, though we look like an old one."