Adrian Cooper has been unwell

Old reviews that are no longer available online, or from sites that no longer exist. The pen is dead, long live the camera.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Radio 1 Live '98
Coopers Field, Cardiff

Welcome to the Radio 1 theme pub. As with most pubs, the beer is over-priced, there are fourteen year olds everywhere, and a number of mediocre bands are making a tuneless noise in the corner. Appropriate then, that in an atmosphere like this, the novelty act can become a highlight.

Despite the set-list being restricted by which songs the audience will actually recognise, the Shirehorses give us a quick thrilling with their assassinations of the Charlatans, Kula Shaker and Oasis, and their well rehearsed one-liners and banter raise them way above the standard of most of the bands appearing today. All we need now is the boy Lard to reform the Creepers, and give Mark E. Smith cause to wonder why he ever got rid of him in the first place.

Essentially being a marketing scam for Radio 1, today’s agenda seems to be more about promoting the station than providing entertainment. This means that the intervals between bands are often longer than the sets themselves, and DJ Punk-Roc and Dave Pearce are left to fill the gaps, while Radio 1 logos are projected onto anything that doesn't move, just in case any decides to sit down and not look like they're enjoying themselves. Unfortunately, there's not much enjoyment to be had while Hurricane #1 are here to remind you that Andy Bell really isn't much good any more. Their trad-rock riffing even manage to destroy 'Step Into My World', the only decent song they've managed to write, and no matter what you've been told, it's going to take a lot more than 'Rising Sign' to scare My Bloody Valentine out of hiding.

Republica follow this with their red haired Siouxise and the Banshees act, as Saffron jumps around like a grasshopper in a minefield, greatly disappointing your correspondent each time she fails to explode in a cascade of entrails and dyed follicles. The only explosion we get all day is Robbie Williams' ego as we get to hear to chart run-down live just to make sure we realise that 'Millennium' has made number one, and cheeky, chirpy, little Robbie bounds onstage to, yes, you've guessed it, entertain us, yet again.

In order to make room for his head to swell a little more, I stumble from the tent and become one of the five people not willing to take part as Robbie leads the crowd through his greatest hits. I stumble back in to discover that The Divine Comedy’s Neil Hannon is the most fey man in the world. Around him, the strings swell, guitars rock ever so politely, and Neil regales us with tales of woe, women, woodsheds, weevils and other everyday things that begin with the letter w.

This, after another lengthy DJ bout, brings us to the moment that everyone seems to have been waiting for. Each announcement of the running order has been left buried under the clamour of screaming voices at the very mention of their name, the flags have been unfurled, and the expectations have been raised to a new level. Then the Manic Street Preachers walk onstage and bring with them a sense of disappointment not experienced since they last played the Reading festival.

Maybe it was to be expected? After all, the signs were there, but how could a band that once strove to reach so high can now be found finally stooping so low. They may now have the commercial success that had originally eluded them, but tonight's performance once again proves what a pyrrhic victory that has been.

With the stage presence of a troupe of performing ants working a crowd of hyperactive hippopotami, the Manics drearily work there way through the five songs that we have been deemed worthy to hear. A couple of old songs, and a couple of new ones, they said, as the Manics progress from quoting Marx to practising a Stalinist culling of anything that they released before 1996.

In their one attempt at courting controversy, 'Everything Must Go' gets a swift lyric change in order to attack Wales international football manager Bobby Gould, while the new songs merely show that, not only have the Manics started to emulate Simple Minds musically, instead of reaching the level of purity and wisdom of the real poets, Nicky's lyrics seem to be stuck at the phase that most people grow out of during sixth-form. They used to want to be Guns'n'Roses, but now they seem content to be Embrace.

It seems tonight that only four people can ease the ills of the day, and Ash are convinced that they can be that band. After about three seconds we're convinced as well, Ash are on stunning form given the opportunity to show themselves off to this extent, despite the fact that many of the 10,000 gathered here have already left, whisked off to bed by their impatient parents. Those who stay are rewarded with Ash reaching new heights, as Charlotte adds the necessary style and volume needed to flesh out the songs and raise the performance to another level. They play nearly everything, from a trashy, thrashy 'Jack Names The Planets' to the Mary Chain meets the Ramones New York sleaze of 'Jesus Says', all the time building to a crescendo until 'Oh Yeah' and a gloriously sublime rendition of 'Get Ready' change the pace, but still manage add to the intensity gathering around the stage. Now that the metal tendencies have been worked through, Ash are on the verge of going supernova, they've left their teenage kicks behind them, and they'll get away with it now that they're not pesky kids any more.