Festival Number 6, Portmeirion, Sunday, September 15
That James Dean Bradfield used to holiday as a kid in the Welsh village of Portmeirion adds to the sentimentality of Manic Street Preachers closing Festival No 6. With it being 15 years to the day since the band first went introspective on 1998 album ‘This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours’, and the night before its soul-searching cousin ‘Rewind The Film’ is released, their return home feels apt.
This festival is surreal, the kind of place where a dancer clad in an angel-white bodysuit pirouettes over the site, suspended by an illuminated white orb. And the Gwynedd region is fiercely nationalistic, with the Welsh language dominating all weekend. So when the band’s theremin-tinged instrumental ‘Manorbier’ – named after a castle in Pembrokeshire – welcomes the group onstage, it signposts a particularly personal show for the band. A rare outing for ‘This Is My Truth…’ album track ‘Ready For Drowning’ sees its real-life tale of a Welsh community destroyed for the sake of a reservoir delivered steely-eyed by Bradfield; he also gives a solo performance of ‘This Sullen Welsh Heart’, an ode to late Welsh poet RS Thomas, before strumming his way through ‘The Everlasting’, allowing the packed tent to sing along. The frontman even goes for his own Hendrix at Woodstock moment, riffing out the Welsh national anthem as the intro to ‘Motown Junk’.
But even though this set feels like a message to Wales from the trio, they hold the whole crowd brilliantly. Richard Hawley joins the group for a soaring version of ‘Rewind The Film,’ his mournful croon upstaged by Bradfield’s wrought chorus. Then Nicky Wire begins to find his voice between songs (“This couldn’t have been written if Michael ‘Wanker’ Gove was in charge of education then,” he spits before ‘If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next’, to huge cheers), and their festival standards ‘Motorcycle Emptiness’, ‘You Love Us’ and the spine-tingling finale of ‘Motown Junk’ and ‘A Design For Life’ are delivered with furious intensity. It’s as it ever was. ‘Revol’ – dedicated to Richey – remains ferocious; Bradfield still covers miles onstage, moving in response to Sean Moore’s tireless drumming; Wire still pogos with his bass like a teenager in front of his bedroom mirror. And tonight the Manic Street Preachers take the opportunity to pay their respects to
a country they love, one that loves them right back.
Simon Jay Catling