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Riot Squad - Wales On Sunday, 23rd January 2011

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Title: Riot Squad
Publication: Wales On Sunday
Date: Sunday 23rd January 2011
Writer: David Owens

The Manic Street Preachers play a homecoming show in Blackwood this week. Originally scheduled for December it had to be cancelled due to James Dean Bradfield's laryngitis. Dave Owens speaks to Steve Gatehouse, the musician who staged their anarchic last gig in their hometown on his memories of a riotous night.

When the Manic Street Preachers return to Blackwood this week, they'll be hoping to avoid a repeat of their last chaotic appearance in their hometown.

Then, almost 25 years ago, their show at the Blackwood Little Theatre - only their third ever gig - descended into a full scale riot.

Police were called and arrests were made as the venue was laid to waste by football hooligans and rugby lads who had descended on the venue looking for trouble.

In rare footage from the gig - which has only just come to light and can be accessed on our website WalesOnline - you can clearly see James Dean Bradfield, Nicky Wire and Sean Moore, as well as original bass player Miles 'Flicker' Woodward, being bottled and heckled as the Little Theatre descended into anarchy.

James can also be seen to lift his shirt and goad the crowd pointing to the words 'I Am Sex' which he had written on his chest.

The gig, on Saturday October 4, 1986, is indelibly etched on the mind of the man who organised this epochal show - Steve Gatehouse.

The drummer, who attended Cross Keys College with The Manics, had asked the soon-to-be superstars to support his goth-punk band - Funeral In Berlin at the show.

"They were good mates and we offered to let them use all our kit," he recalls. "It's just a shame it all got trashed and covered in beer!

"Funeral In Berlin had a bit of a reputation, much like the Jesus and Mary Chain did at the time, of attracting trouble at their gigs," continues Steve.

"As there weren't that many gigs in the area, we'd attract all the punks and goths to our shows.

"There were about 200 in that night, including a minority of football fans and rugby lads who proceeded to take the place apart.

"The Manics did a half hour set and as you can see from the footage it was chaos."

Steve remembers James Dean Bradfield was particularly defiant in the face of some severe provocation.

"Well you can see him being hit on the head by a beer can for a start," he laughs. "But James was always pretty fierce, the strong silent type. You wouldn't mess with him.

"He fronted up to the football and rugby boys, winding them up by lifting his shirt and pointing to those words on his chest.

"A piano was smashed up, all our kit was wrecked and covered in beer and it was inevitable the police would be called.

"They made quite few arrests and I remember over the course of the evening lots of people were hauled into the back of the police van."

Steve says that Nicky Wire had told him it was a gig by his band that gave him the push he needed to form the Manic Street Preachers.

"We played in the Cross Keys Institute in 1985 and that was another gig that descended into chaos," he remembers. "The Manics hadn't formed a band at that point and were in the crowd.

"Nicky said he loved the gig and apparently thought yes, this is it, this is what I want to do. He said it give him the kick up the a*** needed to form a band."

As well as the notorious Little Theatre show, Funeral In Berlin gave the Manics their first taste of live action.

"We did about six gigs with them in all and they played their very first gig supporting us at The Railway Hotel in Crumlin," says Steve.

"But it's no lie that the Little Theatre show is the gig that is still talked about now. It was that kind of night. Legendary." You can listen to the Manic Street Preachers playing at the Blackwood Miners' Institute for BBC Radio Two's In Concert series on Thursday January 27 at 8pm.

On the original homecoming date being cancelled "We were devastated but James has been ill, so sadly we had to concede defeat.

"Every time we got something going in the campaign (for the Manics' most recent album Postcards From A Young Man) something came along and stopped it. (The Manics also had to cancel shows around the UK because of illness in their camp.) "James has taken a lot of antibiotics and a couple of steroids so he'll back to full throttle.

"We're a band of 41-year-olds who still play like we're 25; there's a lot of screaming, there's a lot of jumping, perhaps it's all caught up with us and perhaps it's just a run of bad luck.

"We did a lot of gigs in Australia and Japan and we did a lot of flights with a lot of air conditioning, so who knows.

"Fate dealt its hand but it will turn out for the best. A new improved Manic Street Preachers will be ready to rock. We will make it an extra special night."

On growing up in Blackwood "It was a great place to grow up, although it might have seemed pretty boring to most people.

"It could be a rough area at times, especially growing up under Thatcher and the mines closing down.

"It was a particularly politicised time, which helped us I think as it gave us a focus for our anger and something to fight against.

"It was quite odd wandering the streets of Blackwood dressed as The New York Dolls as it's a traditional old town but we managed to get away with it."

On the Blackwood Miners' Institute gig "I spent a lot of my youth, my misspent Jimmy White-esque youth, playing snooker in the 'Stute.

"I don't think we've done a gig there (in Blackwood) since the Little Theatre gig in 1986.

"We're going to go there during the day when we come back for the rescheduled date.

"It's the one and only gig we did in Blackwood and it turned into a full scale riot. Their piano was smashed up I think, which we felt really bad about.

"We're going to visit our old school, Oakdale Comprehensive, where (boxer) Joe Calzaghe went as well. I think me and Richey (Edwards) are on the board their for best A-Level results. Maybe we'll also go to Pen Y Fan pond where we used to go and pretend we were the Beat Generation and read poetry and listen to The Clash.

"We're also going to my dad's shed where we used to practice, which you just wouldn't believe, because its so small.

"It's amazing to see actually. That's if he lets anyone in. He does charge money for the privilege!"