James Dean Bradfield

Ernest Frank 11/07/2006

"There's a lot of solo projects about. right now" said my mate outside the pub last night. Yes. Or is it just that there's a lot of talent with more strings to it's bow than merely a year of being the coolest name to drop in the new wave of Wella Shockwave's latest scene.

James Dean Bradfield is playing to a packed out ULU and he's hot. The venue is hotter than July, but that's not it. It's a hot ticket and the warmth of cameaderie and respect for a classic British songwriter, heats it more. A couple of months ago there were a number of intimate JDB gigs, with tickets like gold dust, to get the first live hearings of the new album, The Great Western - a collection of new songs that don't disappoint. Soaring tunes, it's got, and some heartfully sang plain speaking too.

Critics could lazily dismiss it as sounding like Manic Street Preachers. The vocals aren't disguised. James contributed to the writing of the Manics massive catalogue of hits, if anything, this highlights his input. MSP haven't been accused of sounding like James, which is unadmitted proof that The Great Western is a pop tuned debut from a singer/songwriter in his own right. But nit picking aside, as long as the songs are quality tunes... Besides, coming from The Land Of Song and having an instantly recognised voice is an achievement not to be sneezed/sneered at...

As a taster, 'That's No Way To Tell A Lie' is an instantly catchy introduction. That engaging factory is key to the continuing appeal of what Manic Street Preachers do as a band or as individuals. No need to shag the untalented for a year or two of celebrity rag attention when you can make music that will sustain a genuine career, in or out of flavour favour. Along with (another) gang of accomplished musicians, we are all enjoying ourselves tonight, on or off stage.

With hooks and power chords the crowd are reeled in to roaring approval of each song, but the added flair comes from being Of The People. Some side project outings are more about what the stars want than considering that the audience have paid to be entertained.

JDB didn't need to sing any Manics songs to have played a damn fine gig, but he did, and the fans loved it even more for that. As much a crowd pleaser as a crowd winner. Actually, this evening, James Dean Bradfield was somehow like a new artist who has just gained his first flush of recognition with a sold out ULU gig. Basically a highly recommended contemporary album - check out "An English Gentleman," the sound of teenage newer wave bands on the unsigned circuit right now - and PROPER live performance, complete with audience communication. Full of anticipation, we came out to have a good time tonight, and were shown a thorougly great time by A Welsh Gentleman. And his many friends.