James Dean Bradfield / Vega 4 - Manchester Academy 2 - 10.10.06

If tonight's show is anything to go by then Vega 4 are on the verge of becoming the new Snow Patrol. After years of obscurity following a much ignored album release "Satellites" on Taste Media (rewritten out of their history in the press release), Sony BMG saw something in them and promptly put them in the studio to record what would become their official debut album "You And Me". Lets not beat around the bush, there's nothing new here and not an air of originality, but the simple fact is these songs could take them into the big time and on the live shows they do break away from the polished comfortable surrounds of the studio. "You and Me" and "Traffic Jam" are fine songs and unlike the personality bypass of Gary Lightbody, vocalist Johnny McDaid engages with the audience and has a tremendous sense of humour. Once in a while a band comes around that is all about the songs and you simply have to drop the pretence of being cool and give in to the beauty of it all.

Take away the history, that rich history of one of Britain's best ever rock bands and what you're left with is an artist with one of the best albums of 2006. Back in Manchester, the place where James Dean Bradfield played his first ever solo gig at a shaky but memorable performance at the intimate 250 capacity Roadhouse venue  Bradfield spend most of the gig like a startled rabbit in the headlights.

"This is about turning up to school in a Ford Capri with my arm out of the Window like Terry McCann from Minder - I suppose we were a bunch of c*nts" Bradfield announces before the intro to "On Saturday Morning We Will Rule The World". Relaxed, affable and the friendly jokey face of the Manics we've come to expect over the years. Musically and lyrically this is far lighter than the polemic Nicky Wire will spit out on his forthcoming solo record and yet it's more refreshing for it. The sign of a man happy in his own shell and letting those influences such as Motown and Spector flood out. Even "Ocean Spray", an old Manics song that James wrote about the death of his mother is almost reinvented as a chugging barbershop song with a sax solo sounding both terribly and beautifully eighties influenced.

Going back to his roots on an electric cover of The Clash's "Working For The Clampdown" is followed by "This Is Yesterday", a tearful moment from the Richey days. Followed by "Kevin Carter" with Sean Naysmith on sax duties . It's a timely reminder of one of the Manic's underrated moments "Small Black Flowers" which are then followed by "From Despair To Where" and "No Surface All Feeling".

For many artists to include so many tracks from them illustrious back catalogue on their first proper solo tour would be a total disaster with their own material struggling to be heard. That James Dean Bradfield can play "Bad Boys and Painkillers" and "That's No Way To Tell A Lie" in the midst of these classic and they still shine as highlights of the set proves just how good his debut album is and hopefully he'll be aloud that outlet in the future as it really does tower above any of the recent Manics releases.

"Nick and Sean say hello. There's a chance the Manics may be back previewing some new material in Manchester in December time" Bradfield bids as a farewell. There's never any escaping your history but with or without the Manics, Bradfields future looks very rosy

Alex McCann

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