Biggest Weekend: Manic Street Preachers pull off 'Wireless' set

By Mark Savage & Paul Glynn
BBC Music reporter

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Manic Street Preachers played a triumphant set on the opening night of the BBC's Biggest Weekend festival - despite losing their bassist.

Nicky Wire was forced to pull out of the show earlier in the day due to a family illness.

"We wish him and his mother all the love in the world," frontman James Dean Bradfield told the crowd in Belfast.

The band's guitar technician Richard stood in, ably delivering hits like Motorcycle Emptiness and You Love Us.

The only major difference was that he didn't share Wire's penchant for cross-dressing.

"We tried to get him into a leopard skin skirt but it wasn't happening," joked Bradfield. "Though he's got great calves and he's a great bass player."

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The Manics were followed on stage by US star Beck, who played an energetic, crowd-pleasing set that mixed his own hits with covers like Prince's Raspberry Beret, Talking Heads' Once In A Lifetime and Chic's Good Times.

"We're not trying to be the wedding band," he joked. "These songs helped us reach a little higher up there."

But the biggest applause of the night was reserved for the star's 1993 slacker anthem, Loser.

"That's the loudest we've heard all year - that's going to be hard to beat," he told the 15,000-strong audience.

Closing the night were iconic dance act Orbital, who brought their stunning light show - and a touch of middle-aged rave - to Belfast's Titanic Slipway.

As well as the classics like Satan and Halcyon, the duo played their 1991 hit Belfast, dedicating to the "all of you who've lived through terrible experiences" during the sectarian violence in Northern Ireland.

They also played a new song, The End Is Nigh, before rounding off their set with Doctor - a repurposed version of the Doctor Who theme tune.

Image caption,
Orbital lit up the evening sky with their spectacular light show
Image caption,
Beck's band formed an orderly queue for the ice cream van
Image caption,
The band attracted the biggest audience of the day in Belfast
Image caption,
The Breeders received a huge cheer as they rolled out the 90s grunge classic Cannonball

The Biggest Weekend is designed as the BBC's "replacement" for Glastonbury - which is taking a fallow year in 2018.

As well as the 6 Music stage in Belfast, there are events taking place in Swansea, Perth and Coventry across the Bank Holiday weekend.

The Scottish National Jazz Orchestra got the Scottish leg of the event off to a swinging start, followed by sets from Jamie Cullum, Eddi Reader and percussionist Evelyn Glennie.

Perth's Scone Palace provided a dramatic backdrop as Nigel Kennedy headlined the event, playing Bach's double violin concerto in D minor with the Scottish Symphony Orchestra, as well as a selection of Gershwin classics.

"Thank you for listening to this stuff in not ideal conditions," he told the audience.

Image caption,
Evelyn Glennie transfixed the audience with her performance of Michael Daucherty's Da Vinci's Wings
Image caption,
The Pipes & Drums of the Black Watch brought some traditional Scottish music to the show

Other highlights on the opening day of the festival included:

Saturday will see Radio 1's contribution to the festival kick off in Swansea with an early-morning set by Ed Sheeran - who then has to high-tail it to his own headline gig in Manchester.

Other artists due to play over the weekend include Sam Smith, Florence + The Machine, Rita Ora, Liam Gallagher, Paloma Faith, Simple Minds, Craig David, Jess Glynne and Taylor Swift.

Monday will also see a "Strictly Spectacular" at Coventry's War Memorial Park, with the show's professional dancers - including Gorka Marquez and Amy Dowden - accompanied by the BBC Concert Orchestra and Radio 3's Katie Derham.

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