Manic Street Preachers,
MANIC Street Preachers arrived at Cardiff University for a two-night residency riding high on their return to form and promising a truly special weekend.
Despite playing two sold-out nights at the much smaller Great Hall rather than one at CIA, the platoon of touts outside in the lashing rain were left clutching fistfuls of unsold tickets, but inside the venue you wouldnt have known it as the bars heaved and the hot air was moist.
You Love Us opened a massive greatest hits-style set culled from their first five albums and garnished with surprisingly few from their eighth and latest, Send Away The Tigers.
But regardless of how many classics the Blackwood three kicked out, how well they played them or how pregnant with shared history they kept the banter, the crowd didnt quite pick up the gauntlet until the very end, with new-era Manics fans seemingly in the majority.
As much as I hate to say it, The Manics are probably a band on the way down from their magnificently creative summit but the plateau on which theyve re-settled is still agonisingly high.
The closing four tracks were sustained excellence, starting with a soul-stirring You Stole The Sun From My Heart and followed by Little Baby Nothing, which had Nicky Wire so wound-up he wielded his bass above his head in triumph, roaring the vocals off-mic.
Design For Life was always going to be a roof-lifting climax and, while it was exceptional, it was the volume of peaks that impressed.
James Dean Bradfields acoustic version of Yes was introduced with a touching expression of wonder at the quality of Richies lyrics while Nicky Wire dedicated Im Just A Patsy to the bands lost-but-ever-present guitarist.
Die In The Summertime provided a moment of raw emotional contact and Motorcycle Emptiness has rarely sounded so vast, while Autumnsong proved an anthem to stand among the best.
The set was designed to please and the relationship between the band and fans was summed up with clinical perfection as they sang at each other, All we want from you are the kicks youve given us.
They were exactly as youd want them; James, in a Socialist-red T-shirt, slashing at his guitar, Nicky lurched in front of his feather boad mic stand while Sean Moore did what Sean Moore does.
When they signed off, promising to return at Christmas, the crowd stayed put, demanding an encore that never came, and the lights had to be switched on to a chorus of boos before the fans dispersed.
At the front barrier, a Thirtysomething male fan bartered for a setlist that was promptly pocketed by a member of the typically generous, kind and understanding security staff, leaving the punter devastated.
This band still means everything to us.
Gavin Allen, South Wales Echo
Pix by Steve Bateman, more here
You Love Us