There's a man in the crowd wearing a wedding dress, a feather boa is draped over the microphone stage-right and there are eyeliner accidents all around. It can mean only one thing: the Manic Street Preachers are back.
It's 18 months since they last played live as a band, and James Dean Bradfield starts with a pre-emptive apology for a potentially rusty performance. If they really are nervous, kicking off with You Love Us is a bold way to test the water. But with a fanbase that has been camped outside the Apollo overnight, they needn't have worried. The bumptious chorus is sung back in loud adoration and, barring a few fluffed lyrics and a bit of dodgy time-keeping during Yes and If You Tolerate This Then Your Children Will Be Next, the band deserve the rapturous reception.
As the headliners of XFM's charity extravaganza, the Manics have just 45 minutes to rattle through 11 songs, which might explain why most of the greatest hits set is delivered at autobahn speeds. Most tracks are more than 10 years old, but have aged well. Motorcycle Emptiness still has one of the greatest guitar lines of all time, which slimline Bradfield clearly relishes as he scoots around the stage trying to ignore the buttons on his tight black shirt popping open.
Though their eighth album, Send Away the Tigers, is due in April, they play just two new songs. The best is I'm Just a Patsy, which sounds like Guns'n'Roses covering T Rex's Jeepster. It's not a patch on the oldies, however, especially Motown Junk, which sees Nicky Wire (dressed as a goth soldier but with perturbing highlights) doing some dainty little dance moves.
The force of such songs makes you glad to have the Manics back, even if you didn't miss them terribly while they were away.