James Dean Bradfield, Barfly, London

The point of going solo is...?

"When is the restraining order going to work?" he half-jokes, after the tenth heckle for "PCP" or "Sleepflower" or "Born To End" or some other fan-loved relic of the Manic Street Preachers. "This country's gone to the dogs..."

Being James Dean Bradfield comes with baggage. In literal terms, it means that the carrying case for his drummer's toms has "MSP" painted on it. In figurative terms it means that he will never, ever escape the shadow of his own band.

Black shirt, red Gibson, kiss curl, self-effacing smile: it's like he's never been away, and the Manics' two-year sabbatical (declared in April 2005) never existed. Indeed, tonight's show in a small Camden sweatbox has a very Manicsy feel about it. Prominent members of the Manics' extended personnel are present - the names Eringa, Nasmyth and Davo will resonate with trainspotters - and I run into the band's live agent and label boss, while the Manics' regular tour DJ is behind the decks.

This mini-tour, give or take a cameo, is the first time Bradfield has performed outside the Manics identity. (His new band consists of Wayne Murray on guitar, James Chant on bass, Sean Read on keyboards, and Nick Dewey on drums.) Both he and bassist Nicky Wire are bringing out solo albums at roughly the same time, while drummer Sean Moore takes a break.

A giant "Why?" hovers over the whole project. The Manics haven't split acrimoniously. They are, it seems, also working on new Manics material. More to the point, they haven't taken the opportunity to charge off into new and uncharted musical directions. Indeed, both Bradfield's The Great Western and Wire's as-yet-untitled effort both sound a lot like late-period Preachers.

There are one or two exceptions on show tonight. The closing "Which Way To Kyffin" (presumably named after the Welsh landscape painter Kyffin Williams) begins with a sampled "ah-ah-ah" reminiscent of Laurie Anderson's "O Superman", and I'm startled to hear the use of saxophone, a most un-Manics instrument. But Bradfield's vocal technique - his knack of switching between a heroic gale-force bellow and an angelic falsetto - hasn't altered.

The public perception of Bradfield as a skilled artisan following orders from those around him is, while grossly unfair (he's the intellectual, aesthetic and political equal of anyone else in the band), perhaps convenient for him: this way, he can elude some of the more lunatic attention visited upon his flamboyant sidekick Wire. He's safe to socialise in the bar, before and after the show.

He also seems to feel more freedom to chat than he might at a Manics event. The atmosphere is pleasantly informal: it takes several attempts to give "The Wrong Beginning" the, er, right beginning, and each time he throws a mock-diva hissy fit, spitting, "This is not acceptable".

He's relaxed enough to please the hardcore with a couple of Manics tracks: "Ocean Spray" (the song he wrote about the death of his mother), and "This Is Yesterday" (a regular acoustic interlude in MSP shows).

Tonight, even the nutters are in humorous mood. In the front row, a group of fans has erected a washing line, with five pairs of knickers pegged to it. It spells "J-A-M-E-S".

s.price@independent.co.uk

Arts and Entertainment
Larry David and Rosie Perez in ‘Fish in the Dark’
theatreReview: Had Fish in the Dark been penned by a civilian it would have barely got a reading, let alone £10m advance sales
Arts and Entertainment
Victoria Wood, Kayvan Novak, Alexa Chung, Chris Moyles
tvReview: No soggy bottoms, but plenty of other baking disasters on The Great Comic Relief Bake Off
Arts and Entertainment
80s trailblazer: comedian Tracey Ullman
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Stephen Tompkinson is back as DCI Banks
tvReview: Episode one of the new series played it safe, but at least this drama has a winning formula
Arts and Entertainment
TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Attenborough with the primates
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Former Communards frontman Jimmy Somerville
music
Arts and Entertainment
Secrets of JK Rowling's Harry Potter workings have been revealed in a new bibliography
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Fearne Cotton is leaving Radio 1 after a decade
radio The popular DJ is leaving for 'family and new adventures'
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Public Service Broadcasting are going it alone
music
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne as transgender artist Lili Elbe in The Danish Girl
filmFirst look at Oscar winner as transgender artist
Arts and Entertainment
Season three of 'House of Cards' will be returning later this month
TV reviewHouse of Cards returns to Netflix
Arts and Entertainment
Harrison Ford will play Rick Deckard once again for the Blade Runner sequel
film review
Arts and Entertainment
The modern Thunderbirds: L-R, Scott, Virgil, Alan, Gordon and John in front of their home, the exotic Tracy Island
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Natural beauty: Aidan Turner stars in the new series of Poldark
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift won Best International Solo Female (Getty)

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Shining star: Maika Monroe, with Jake Weary, in ‘It Follows’
film review
Arts and Entertainment

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Paloma Faith arrives at the Brit Awards (Getty)

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Anne Boleyn's beheading in BBC Two's Wolf Hall

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Follow every rainbow: Julie Andrews in 'The Sound of Music'
film Elizabeth Von Trapp reveals why the musical is so timeless
Arts and Entertainment
Bytes, camera, action: Leehom Wang in ‘Blackhat’
film
Arts and Entertainment
The Libertines will headline this year's festival
music
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Dean Anderson in the original TV series, which ran for seven seasons from 1985-1992
tv
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

    Homeless Veterans campaign

    Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
    Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

    Lost without a trace

    But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
    Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

    Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

    Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
    International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

    Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

    Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
    Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

    Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

    Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
    Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

    Confessions of a planespotter

    With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
    Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

    Russia's gulag museum

    Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
    The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

    The big fresh food con

    Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
    Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

    Virginia Ironside was my landlady

    Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
    Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

    Paris Fashion Week 2015

    The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
    8 best workout DVDs

    8 best workout DVDs

    If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
    Paul Scholes column: I don't believe Jonny Evans was spitting at Papiss Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible

    Paul Scholes column

    I don't believe Evans was spitting at Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible
    Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

    From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

    Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
    Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

    Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

    The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
    War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

    Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

    Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable