My excitement in the run-up to this concert was somewhat overshadowed by crippling fear and stress as the threat of a rail strike loomed over the country. If the strike went ahead, I was stuck at home forced to watch a concert I’d paid to attend on the television. Thankfully for me, the strike action was suspended and my travel plans to Cardiff were good to go.
Friday morning came around, the trains were running, and many many people were riding them. You see, not only were The Manics playing in Cardiff that day but so were One Direction. This meant that every train, every bus, every everything was crowded and busy. It also meant every hotel in the city (that I could ever afford anyway) was fully booked and I didn’t have anywhere to stay; but more on that later.
Despite the crowds I managed to enjoy a few relaxing drinks before needing to head to the show, which was a welcome chance for a sit-down after having to stand the whole way on the 3 hour train journey. Despite the typical band-on-stage time of approx 9pm, the doors of the castle were opened to concert-goers at 5pm (rather than the usual 7pm). I’m not quite sure what the purpose of this was but I headed into the castle grounds at around 5:30, grabbed myself a glass of white wine and sat on the grass soaking up the sunshine. Very surprisingly, despite being by myself, the next several hours flew by and before I knew it the support band were taking to the stage. I won’t say much about them because honestly, they were terrible and lets just leave it at that.
It was at this point in the day that a slightly drunken man informed me that we were Batman & Robin, destined to protect and save humanity. “Save humanity from what?” I asked. “Itself” was the answer. We high-fived and he danced off into the crowd.
The Manics set consisted of the first half playing their 1994 album, The Holy Bible in its entirety and a second half full of hits spanning the length of their career and other fan favourites. I thought the song choice in the second half could have been better, or at least a few more variations on what they usually play. I personally would have preferred Stay Beautiful over Condemned To Rock And Roll. I enjoyed hearing Golden Platitudes live but I thought it was a bit of a random choice. Removables is also one of my favourite album tracks but if there is any possibility of touring the whole Everything Must Go album for the anniversary then why include it now? Comfort Comes would have been a nice surprise.
Overall I had a great time. I really appreciated the open-air aspect of the setting as it meant that being squashed in the middle of 10,000 people didn’t become unbearably uncomfortable. Generally the people surrounding me (maybe 10 rows from the front) were just having a fun time dancing and singing. I was happy to be amongst the crowd rather than feeling suffocated by it.
After the set came to a close with a rip-roaring Design For Life, fireworks, and a pretty hilarious attempt to smash a guitar, the crowd started to make their way home. But not me. This was not the end of my night. I still had 6 hours to wait until my train home.
As the venue slowly began to empty I moved off to the side to sit down for a few minutes whilst the crowd thinned. It was here that I started chatting to a lovely lady who began our conversation by complimenting my teeth. People certainly were saying very random things to me today! After a while the conversation turned to heading home. When it was discovered that I didn’t have anywhere to be until 5am she announced that she (and her husband and friend, I should add) were not going to just leave me by myself in the middle of the night, and instead decided to stay and continue the party. They really were the friendliest people and absolutely hilarious. I have been to concerts on my own before and sometimes you might not end up talking to anyone and then other times things like this can happen and I ended up having a really fun night thanks to the kindness and generosity of complete strangers. Thanks to a kindly barman I even managed to get a cup of tea in a pub at 3am.
I think one life lesson I have learnt from this entire experience is that I often think I can’t do things until I’m actually doing them. How can you go to a concert on your own? How can you go into unfamiliar bars/pubs? How can you stay without a hotel? But you know what, I just did it. I knew I wanted to go so I booked the ticket and didn’t think anymore of it. I did go on my own. I did go into unfamiliar places. Yes, I was anxious walking in but before you know it you’ve already done it and you’re already in there.
I hope by writing this that the feelings and realisations will really start to sink in as they will be valuable assets to remember on my future travels.
For anyone who is interested, you can watch highlights of Manic Street Preachers at Cardiff Castle on BBC iPlayer