At the Leeds Academy, Kelly’s leather jacket was on, his hair spiked and his face still as fresh faced as ever, it kept us wondering if time has actually passed. It feels like Stereophonics have been around forever, and in music years they are almost veterans. It’s always surprising to think that despite releasing music since 1997, they didn't score a number one single until 2005's 'Dakota'.
Support Act Josh Weller bounced on stage with his quiffed mohawk and introduced himself. He launched into a Jamie T style rap with an American tinge, accompanied by his acoustic guitar and lightning fast lyrics. After, he talked about his suck-it-and-see approach enquiring whether the audience liked it, as he'd written it before the tour. The quirky act was popular with the crowd; his songs were interesting and held attention. One particular song belonged in a Tim Burton animation film, with the lyrics “as long as you’ll be living I’ll be dead inside” and “you bought a new house, I bought a new coffin”. He invited the audience to sing along to his dark love tale adding an impromptu mash up of ‘Hit The Road Jack’. He was humble and wasn’t afraid to laugh at himself, revealing his fear of coming on stage with his fly down, which was met with whoops from the crowd. He explained comically “it was nothing to whoop at,” and “it occasionally let him down.”
Stereophonics kicked off their first of two scheduled appearances in Leeds, the second in the new Leeds Arena later on in the year. Kelly unleashed arguably one of the sexiest voices in music onto the crowd in ‘We Share The Same Sun’. He followed them up with the huge ‘The Bartender And The Thief’ and then the crowd stumbled along to the words of ‘A Thousand Trees’.
They performed their set of hits to a backdrop of visuals. Due to the sheer amount of people, we were only able to catch a glimpse of the band through someone’s Mackintosh shoulder loop, or during the brief intervals where people stopped holding their hands in the air. In contrast, looking up towards the front of the balcony, the crowd were static and we could only see the occasional mouthing of the words. But there were women leaning over the sides of the balcony, screaming every word, which made up for the lack on participation.
As the night went on, and more songs came out, it dawned on everyone how many hits Stereophonics have had. They brought buckets of nostalgia, with ‘Just Looking’ taking you back to the nineties, ‘Have A Nice Day’ to the early noughties and ‘Dakota’ a few years later, when the video seemed to be on every music channel.
The band’s performance was near flawless, and the only reminder that it wasn’t pre-recorded was when Kelly’s voice wavered towards the end. They played to the crowd and just as much to themselves. Anticipating the bass, the band danced sarcastically and laughed to each other. In the newer songs, they appeared more self-conscious looking around the crowd, trying to gauge the audience’s reaction.
As the set came to an end, the crowd punched the air along to “I don’t know where we are going now,” feeling every single word. They left the stage thanking everyone who came, giving us a taste of what is to come in the summer.
Words by Cat Marr
Photos by Danny Payne