Nicky Wire has an analogy he'd like to share with us. "If the Manics are New Labour," he declares, high on eye-shadow and resplendent in a crumpled pink suit, "then I'm Dennis Skinner - the outspoken maverick." Huge cheers from the fancy dress audience. "James is Gordon Brown, solid, stoic, dependable, the leader in waiting." More cheers. "And Sean is Peter Mandelson." Baffled silence. "He's waiting for us to fuck up, and then he's going to put out his Depeche Mode goes techno album."
Good old Nicky Wire. While James Dean Bradfield is skilfully playing the game with his solo career (picking a cool looking band, writing songs with playlist written all over them), The Wire's doing what he does best: talking first and thinking about what he's got himself into afterwards. There's little doubt that Wire's solo album will be the lesser of the two - on tonight's evidence, he can't really sing, and the songs are either pubby glam rock or trad reworkings of "Motorcycle Emptiness" or "You Can't Put Your Arms Around A Memory" by Johnny Thunders. But for sheer, laugh out loud, entertainment value, it's Nicky all the way.
This is a gig for friends, then, rather than the outside world. The band is called The Secret Society, and its first London meeting (after their debut at the Hay-On-Wye literary festival), is at the legendary Stay Beautiful club night, named after a Manics song and run by the Manics biographer, Simon Price. The crowd are die-hard fans to a person, and are frequently the most spectacular part of the show - there's a gothette in a wedding dress, there's a bloke in full undertaker's get-up, everywhere you turn there's glitter and make up and determined flamboyance. It's like Studio 54 hosting the "Rocky Horror" wrap party.
And as with any meeting of friends, there are in-jokes and private references. "Daydreamer Eyes" is about "a beautiful little boy I used to know", and it's hard not to conclude it must be about Richey. "Goodbye Suicide" will be poured over for clues, even though it doesn't offer much more than "sayonara, see you later". "Kimono Rock" is prefaced with a mention of a Manics trip to Japan - another reference point to unravel. And, of course, there are Manics songs as well. A thrash through "Condemned To Rock'N'Roll" from "Generation Terrorists" and "Mr Carbohydrate", a b-side from the "Everything Must Go" days.
So even though this isn't the greatest musical experience ever imagined - "It's like Pete Doherty without the crack", declares Wire knowingly at one point - it's fun and karaoke-watchable. He does "Roadrunner", as covered by the Sex Pistols. He does "Substitute", as covered by the Sex Pistols. He talks about the parent teacher evening at his daughter's school, for no good reason. And he leaps into the moshpit at the end and walks through the crowd, all sweaty and smiley and crumpled. Sometimes you have to see your heroes being human to know they're really heroes after all.
by Ian Watson
pix from /www.staybeautifulclub.co.uk
Nicky Wire slams festivals
Despite playing Latitude next weekend, Manic Street Preachers bassist Nicky Wire has hit out at festivals and all the acts that play them - especially seasoned field favourites like, err, Robbie Williams...
The Manics bassist, who has just launched his solo career, apparently also detests other bands who regularly play the major festivals, such as Glastonbury, Reading and T In The Park, because they attract people who only listen to music which is hugely popular.
Nicky Wire said: "I've always hated festivals. From the very
start of the Manics, me and Richey (Edwards) used to live by what
Pete Townsend said at Woodstock: 'So much for peace and love, all
I saw was mud and people smoking marijuana.' Needless to say, I loathe
festival bands, too. Travis, Robbie Williams... it's the sort of music
liked by people who buy one CD and who go to one gig a year. And the
gig, of course, is a festival."