And NME and NME.COM are preparing their very own Manics tribute in London...

MANIC STREET PREACHERS are gearing up for their first gig of the year tonight (February 17) at a 5,000-capacity theatre in HAVANA, CUBA.

The Welsh trio are playing for a token sum of 25 cents – the equivalent of 17 pence – for what will be the biggest show by a Western rock act to take place on the island.

And NME.COM was on hand to meet the band as they faced the world’s media yesterday (February 16).

At a thirty minute press conference at the International Press Centre in the Vedado district of the city, the band, who arrived in Cuba on Wednesday

night, said they were “excited but nervous” about tonight’s show. They also admitted

that they had no idea what the response would be, or even who would attend. Bassist Nicky Wire joked, “for all we know it could just be you guys!”

He also said that anyone who suggested that the show was little more than an

elaborate publicity stunt was “an idiot”. He added that the show, which had originally been his idea, was out of “respect for Cuban culture” and solidarity with Fidel Castro’s Communist regime, which has fought the influence of global Americanisation. He said, “For me, sometimes it’s just in

terms of something like sport. It’s a very rich culture, and it’s important

for us to come and share (our own). We’re not here to sell records or anything

like that, that’s not the point, we’re here to entertain and stimulate and show people what we’re about. We’re not here for any commercial reasons

at all.”

Wire continued. “Cuba’s stayed independent, there’s more American culture in

Britain than there is in Cuba.You haven’t got Limp Bizkit over here like we have. Hideous band. We’ve got to listen to them every day in Britain. The first place we played last time was Kettering. That’s a pretty dull place. This seemed like the most different place we could come to.”

The band said that they had not yet had time to properly observe Communism in action, but they will stay in the country until Wednesday. Frontman James Dean Bradfield has been seen talking to street musicians in Havana and playing guitar with them. It is also believed that a Cuban trumpet player will join the band onstage at tonight’s show.

The band have indicated that are intending to play the song ‘Baby Elian’, about last year’s high profile custody battle over six-year-old Elian Gonzalez, whose Cuban father became embroiled in an international wrangle to retrieve his son from US relatives after he was caught up in a shipwreck drama.

To mark our coverage of the historic gig, next week’s issue of NME (cover date March 3, on sale in shops throughout the UK on February 28) will be a full-on Manics special.

And for the first time in our history, NME readers outside the UK will be able to pre-order copies of our Manics In Cuba special issue.

Each copy will cost £5 – equivalent to roughly US$7.15 – inclusive of postage and packaging. The offer is only available to non-UK residents – to order your copy now, [url=]click here.

NME.COM will also have photographs from the show next week.

Meanwhile, back in Blighty we are staging our own event to mark the Manics triumphant live return in Havana.

Generation Preachers, premiere Manics tribute outfit, will play a very special set at Bar Cubana, Waterloo, London – at the corner of Baylis Road and Lower Marsh. Doors open at 6pm. Look out for NME’s answer to Fidel Castro making security checks on the door…