Having slayed over 20,000 adoring fans six weeks ago at Swansea's Liberty Stadium, the Manic Street Preachers tour of unconventional gig venues continues. This time it's the turn of the Eden Project, a geological complex situated on the outskirts of Cornish town and holiday resort, St Austell. Located on the site of a former mine, it's become one of the UK's largest tourist attractions since opening its doors to the public fifteen years ago. Housing thousands of different forms of plant species in its spacious and highly distinctive eco domes, it also boasts a large botanical garden which is where the stage for this evening's show has been erected.
Not that the site itself is a stranger to live music events, having hosted the Eden Sessions since 2002. Previous years have seen the likes of Amy Winehouse, Elton John, and Sigur Ros perform one-off shows there, while this summer, Tom Jones, Lionel Richie, and PJ Harvey are among the names who've already wowed audiences this summer in a setting that while not specifically designed for such events, still provides something of a glorious spectacle accompanying said live performances.
Of course the downside of putting on a show here is that many of those in attendance are casual fans. Holiday makers passing through that see the Eden Project as a veritable aside from the usual fare of sand, sea, and cider. While that makes for a tranquil atmosphere, it also renders the artists' task that little bit more difficult in winning the audience over. Particularly the support acts, whose valiant efforts yield mixed results.
First up is The Anchoress, who rises to the challenge from the moment she walks on stage. Backed by a five-piece band, The Anchoress (aka Catherine Anne Davies) seems completely undaunted by such a momentous occasion bearing in mind her lifelong obsession with the headline band. Playing a half-hour set comprised of songs from her debut Confessions Of A Romance Novelist, the muted response out front changes in an instant when 'PS Fuck You' is dedicated to Nigel Farage and anyone that voted to leave during last month's EU referendum. Recent single 'What Goes Around' also draws an enthusiastic round of applause which suggests the battle is won. However, it's merely just the start of an eventful and memorable evening for The Anchoress.
Unfortunately, Bill Ryder-Jones doesn't fare quite so well. Despite playing a sprightly set focusing on the more upbeat tracks from last year's West Kirby County Primary and its predecessor A Bad Wind Blows In My Heart, it seems to fall on deaf ears judging by the silence that follows the likes of 'Two To Birkenhead' and 'Wild Swans'. Noticing the apathy, Ryder-Jones makes the odd quip in between songs, yet being the consummate professional he is, doesn't falter in terms of delivering a stunning performance all the same.
For the Manics, tonight represents a return to business as usual. Having just completed a string of dates commemorating the twentieth anniversary of fourth album Everything Must Go, this evening's setlist is all about the hits and with so many to choose from, it's more a case of knowing what to leave out than what to play. What that means is 'Motorcycle Emptiness' is restored to its now familiar position as opener, while 'A Design For Life' brings the show to an end some ninety minutes later, having been replaced in that position for the past couple of tours by 'If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next'.
In between, there's little in the way of banter other than dedicating 'You Love Us' to erstwhile guitarist Richey Edwards, while James Dean Bradfield introduces 'Found That Soul' - back in the set for the first time since 2011's National Treasures show at London's O2 Arena - as "This one's from a record we won't be celebrating twenty years later" and 'Masses Against The Classes' as "The only number one to start with Noam Chomsky and end with Albert Camus." Elsewhere, 'La Tristessa Durrera' and 'Little Baby Nothing' also make welcome returns, the latter featuring a cameo from The Anchoress in a role that's previously been occupied by Traci Lords and Kylie Minogue among others.
With the relentless downpour showing no sign of abating at any point during the evening, Bradfield opens his traditional midset acoustic segment with an ironic rendition of Hal David and Burt Bacharach's 'Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head'. 'Ocean Spray' and 'The Everlasting' are also delivered impeccably to a polite audience whose spirits, nonetheless, aren't dampened by the weather. Unsurprisingly, Everything Must Go is responsible for a quarter of tonight's set while both The Holy Bible and its conspirator in uneasy listening Journal For Plague Lovers, are absent once more.
Recent single 'Together Stronger' is also missing tonight despite Wales' valiant performance in the European Championships, something which doesn't go unrecognised by the vocal group stood in front of us who spend the entire set screaming for its inclusion. Nevertheless, one cannot fault the set chosen by the Manics this evening, particularly as it wasn't their normal, rabid audience. However, judging by the cries of "More!" afterwards (the Manic Street Preachers NEVER do encores folks), one suspects they might have converted a few more hardened souls to their cause.
Magnificent from beginning to end, not that we'd ever expect anything less from arguably the most consistent live band currently in existence. With no more live shows planned for the rest of the year or indeed the foreseeable future, one suspects album number thirteen might just be around the corner. Watch this space...