The rain is relentless. Weary figures in muddy ponchos and heavy boots slide and stagger through the mud, clinging to each other for support. Each step is a strength-sapping heave to release a boot from the grip of the sodden earth. But more and more of these defiant souls are regrouping in the fading light for the final push.
Given the scene, battlefield analogies are unavoidable, if a tad ridiculous. We volunteered in fact, paid! for this, after all, in the name of entertainment. Luckily, the Manic Street Preachers, a veteran band of hardy Welsh rockers are here to rally the troops. OK, maybe hardy doesn't quite describe bassist Nicky Wire's heavy eye makeup and the feather boa draped on his mic stand (which could be the one that compatriot Shirley Bassey was wearing during her set). But singer James Dean Bradfield, in green military jacket, gets the martial mood.
It's a stirring set from the most political and intelligent of bands to come to prominence in the mid-1990s Britpop era. The Manics were the first Western band in 20 years to play to Cuban leader Fidel Castro in the Karl Marx Theatre in Havana. A rousing rendition of "Motorcycle Emptiness" sets the tone, and Nina Perrson from Swedish group The Cardigans joins the band for their current No.2 U.K. single "Your Love Alone Is Not Enough." The Manics' ode to the International Brigade who fought in the Spanish Civil war, "If You Tolerate This, Then Your Children Will Be Next" and the soaring string arrangements and vocals on "A Design For Life" are greeted by flags held high and a cheering crowd bolstered by politics, rock and maybe some West Country cider.
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