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You Loved Us - Melody Maker, 26th June 1999

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ARTICLES:1999



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The MANIC STREET PREACHERS and festivals go together like gunpowder and matches. We take a look back at the UH festival history of Blackwood's finest cross-dressers

SINCE 1992, the Manic Street Preachers have provided some of the most unexpected thrills ever to stun and stagger festival crowds. As a taster for their three headline appearances this summer, we present a festival-by-festival guide to the eight shows that saw the band grow from underdog aggressors to celebrating victors. . .

READING 1992

Main Stage, Saturday, August 29

WHAT HAPPENED?

Their first festival appearance, and possibly their most controversial. Even their T-shirts (featuring a picture of a woman with a machine gun and the slogan "This is the only answer to rape" on the front and the words "Reading 1992: Cultural Chernobyl" on the back) set an agenda.

As did the band. Playing fourth on the bill, they both sounded and looked the part: James topless in white jeans, a crucifix of Marilyns stencilled across his chest; Nicky in chiffon and feathers.

It was very much Nicky's day. "You don't half f***ing stink, you lot," he told the crowd, then adding: "There appears to be some heckling from the cheap seats!" at the inevitable jeers. Nicky topped off the show by lobbing his bass towards the crowd, striking a security guard in the pit, breaking his arm and cutting his head. The Manics fled, cancelling their Maker Signing Tent appearance (thus leaving the weekend's longest queue frustrated) for the safety of their hotel rooms.

Even the bands who played above the Manics couldn't help but be impressed. Andy Bell from Ride (now with Hurricane #1) recalls meeting the band: "James was very friendly, different from the confrontational image which they had back then. Richey was being quite aloof in the corner with a bottle of Jack Daniel's, looking very Keith Richards. I was half petrified of and half megaimpressed by Nicky Wire, as he gave off a very threatening aura, sort of a larger-than-life, Sid-Vicious-wearinga-dress-and-Zulu-make-up feel! Totally awesome!"

Speaking to The Maker, Nick reflected on their festival debut: "Any mass of people who turn up to see 10 different bands play must be pretty fuel led-up. They obviously just go to enjoy the day. I think we've changed their minds, though! Still, the initial reaction of the crowd was quite exciting for us. It felt like Guns N'Roses going out there."

"It was a turning point for us," explained James. "Because, although we never sold as many copies of the album as we wanted to, we were surprised to find out that so many people actually liked us. When `You Love Us' was released, it was intended as a sarcastic Valentine to the industry. That night, it was the reverse of that meaning. We felt like a proper band. I don't think we've ever got over it."

WHAT DID THE MAKER SAY?

"Manic Street Preachers are more than welcome, even if they do ride every cliche in the book. `Theme From MASH' is godlike. ' Motorcycle Emptiness' stinks, and not just of Axl's old beer farts. Their cover of his band's ' It's So Easy' is too close for comfort, but ' Motown Junk' is like one continuous orgasm, with a frilly bow tied round the testicles."

HIGH POINT?

Bloodshed!

LOW POINT?

Cancelling the Maker signing. Boo!

PHOENIX 1993

Main Stage, Sunday, July 18

WHAT HAPPENED?

Fuel led by anger at being placed below Pop Will Eat Itself and the Black Crowes at the inaugural Phoenix, a dragged-up Nicky snarled: "The whole of history is the history of class struggle", before launching into a set swimming with bile. The very idea of the Manics sharing festival stages with lesser bands clashed with their elitist ideals, but, as Nicky explained to The Maker: "It's just another Manic Street Preachers broken promise!"

"It's just the same old story for us," added James. "We thought we were bound for an explosion, but that explosion never happened. So now we're trying to force ourselves on an audience. It's a sad fact of our existence. We do it for purely mercenary reasons."

WHAT DID THE MAKER SAY?

"The Manics are as fascinating as ever. Now that they've abandoned every impossible promise they ever made and became what they were always gonna be, a half-decent rock band, irony marks their every word. Today, motormouths Nicky (in drag) and Richey are quiet, and it's James who steams in gob-first. 'Shut up, you fat, little c***s!' he requests of some screaming female fans. The Manics ain't Sold Out, their need to antagonise runs far too deep."

HIGH POINT?

Nicky's leopard-print headscarf.

LOW POINT?

Not being able to flee before Living Colour. Argh !!!

GLASTONBURY 1994

Second Stage, Friday, June 24

WHAT HAPPENED?

With uber-crusties The Levellers headlining in the next field, MSP's confrontational ism soared to a new high, giving rise to the most aggressive, venomous, celebratory set they would ever play. Not that James saw it that way. "Festivals just stand for the worst punk ideal," he moaned to The Maker, "that anyone can get up onstage and do it. And seeing a band in daylight, without all their masking effects, is the biggest mythblower. We're the only band that lives by a strict code of never looking at the stalls. We lock ourselves in the Portakabin.

"The first festival we all went to when we were kids was WOMAD with Siouxsie and The Housemartins. We were so clean! We stank of soap! Typical students thinking that wearing a black T-shirt made us weird. When we got there, we couldn't believe what was happening. There were naked people on each other's shoulders, selling drugs, shouting, `Recommended by lan Botham!', and me, we thought:

'Dearie me, what's all this?" Accordingly, given the ultracrustie context of Glastonbury '94, Nicky's infamous onstage line: "They should build some more bypasses over this shithole!" makes obvious sense. What may make slightly less obvious sense was their militaristic get-up: James in a Balaclava, Nicky in camouflage fatigues -a war motif that took on bitter significance when a camouflaged man went mental with a pistol the following night. Five people were injured. This writer, standing with in firing range, shat himself.

WHAT DID THE MAKER SAY?

"Simply, tonight the Manics are the most sensational f***ing rock group in the world. Their introductory fanfare is the rising, ripping hum of a running lathe; 'Faster' announces itself, James screams from behind his scary terrorist Balaclava, and hundreds of kids high on the dangerous, mind-bending drug LSD shit themselves and run for the healing tent. "During 'From Despair To Where', something that looks very like water starts pouring through the roof, hitting the amps. F***, they're going to die. A friend and I glance at each other, heads full of headlines. And we're grinning."

HIGH POINT?

That whole bypass thing.

LOW POINT?

More bloodshed.

TIN THE PARK 1994

Second Stage, Saturday, July 30

WHAT HAPPENED?

Everything had gone wrong. This once-again-inaugural festival saw the Manic Street Preachers play their first show as a three-piece in five years, with Richey hospitalised for depression and alcoholism.

Looking back, hindsight alone affords T In The Park 1994 its legendary status; the music really didn't matter that day. Nor James' sailor suit. Nor the rage and the fire. After the show, Nicky told The Maker: "We're going to do Reading as a three-piece as well, the dreaded power-trio! See how it goes, get it out of the way. Festivals aren't something I'll ever relish."

HIGH POINT?

Persistence under impossible strain.

LOW POINT?

The impossible strain.

READING 1994

Main Stage, Saturday, August 27

WHAT HAPPENED?

Everything had got worse. With Richey still too unwell to play (the band themselves were only playing to raise enough money to settle his private medical bills), the Manics' appearance bordered on the desperate, James yelling: "I wish I could tell you some jokes like Jarvis Cocker", before adding: "We haven't turned into one of those power trios like The f***ing Jam or anyone like that." Some fans, meanwhile, chose to respond with a tactful rally of "Richey's in the hospital".

Nevertheless, with Nicky in snow-white fatigues, scaling the speaker stacks and diving into the crowd; with their cover of Nirvana's "Pennyroyal Tea" (an ominous selection) and "Revol" sharp as a butcher's knife, Reading '94 riveted itself to people's memories with the same "getting by" steel that will doubtless mark this summer's appearances.

WHAT DID THE MAKER SAY?

"The Manics are, as ever, lousy rock'n'roll, but great theatre. They get through their set with admirable amounts of doomed fervour and hell-bound recklessness. 'Motorcycle Emptiness' and their version of Nirvana's ' Pennyroyal Tea' are given a poignant twist by the precarious state of their missing part."

HIGH POINT?

Nicky on top of the speakers.

LOW POINT?

Nicky underneath the speakers.

TIN THE PARK 1996

Main Stage, Sunday, July 14

WHAT HAPPENED?

With "Everything Must Go" marking MSP's sudden crossover success, T In The Park had a reinvigorated feel. The Man ics were finally archetypal festival fodder; their new, anthemic sound suited to wide open spaces. Anyway, white navy su its were always a right bastard to get grassstains out of. Far better James' new, lad-rag clobber, eh?

WHAT DID THE MAKER SAY?

"Even with the wavering sound, Manic Street Preachers are magnificent. Perhaps it's time to stop rational ising our feelings for them and admit that they're making superb, straightforward rock anthems, and that's it."

HIGH POINT?

Survival.

LOW POINT?

No survival gear.

PHOENIX 1996

Main Stage, Friday, July 19

WHAT HAPPENED?

With album sales rocketing, the Manics were relaxed enough to break protocol and chat with other bands backstage! Hardly business as usual.

And, despite playing third fiddle to the demon Alanis and the dunce Neil Young, MSP's set passed by with an equally joyous tone. People danced. The sun shone. A water can non bombarded the crowd! A festive festival appearance, then. Blimey!

WHAT DID THE MAKER SAY?

"If there's one central message the new, no-frills, controversy-free, sports-casual Manics have to offer us, it is: `Toughen up. Roll your sleeves down and put those scars away.' There's nothing heroic about f***ing up, as the man who once filled the (ever-decreasing) void stage right would have been the first to tell you. The Culture Of Despair is hereby declared dead and buried."

HIGH POINT?

View Image - Enlarge this image.

View Image - Enlarge this image.

Happiness, happiness, the greatest gift that I possess.

LOW POINT?

But since when was that the point? Harumph!

READING 1997

Main Stage headliners, Saturday, August 23

WHAT HAPPENED?

The first of many, Manic Street Preachers' debut headline slot was to triumphs what Wagnerian operas are to sea shanties. Moreover, Reading '97 saw MSP back in glam mode, with Nicky wearing a blue, seethrough, camouflage dress. The show? Opinion is divided. Though it would take a surly bastard not to take some delight in their success, many felt the Manics' performance whiffed of complacency, more sigh than scream. Others, however, were enraptured.

WHAT DID THE MAKER SAY?

"Whether this is the best Man ics show I've ever seen I can't tell you. What I can tell you is that the Wire is frocked-up for the first time since 1993, flashing his packet through a transparent camouflage number. And that James' preamble to Motown Junk', combining The Supremes with the Situation ists, is arguably the definitive Manics Moment.

"Much of MSP's set is almost unbearably shot through with poignancy- 'Yes' is almost too much even for James: he can only manage: `Everyone I've loved or hated always seems to leave' by pulling a Popeye squint and screaming. The 'You Love Us' filmshow- looking up at gorgeous, gorgeous Edwards, pogoing in white jeans and black lace, then looking down at the Wire, hands on hips, shouting incoherent f***-you farewells- does me in.

"The final freeze-frame reads: 'Fake', but it doesn't get much more 4 real than this."

HIGH POINT?

On top at last.

LOW POINT?

But above who? The Orb??!!

COMING ATTRACTIONS...

Whether or not we can expect speaker stacks to be climbed, dresses to be donned or bypasses to be advocated, we can be fairly sure that something unexpected will happen.

The Manics play the Main Stage on Saturday, T In The Park on July 11 and V99 on August 21-2