Ask any Stereophonics fan which of their seven albums is the best, and you’d struggle to find many that wouldn’t agree their seminal debut ‘Word Gets Around’ and its follow up ‘Performance and Cocktails’ are arguably the best. Tonight’s audience looks pretty representative of fans that were there with them when these albums were topping the charts. Fittingly they start proceedings with ‘Bartender and the Thief’, even tipping their collective hat to Motorhead with a few bars from ‘Ace of Spades’ in there. Carrying on from the beginning ‘A Thousand Trees’ shows Stereophonics at their best with the sound beefed up from when it was written as a three piece, with their additional guitarist and touring keyboard player.
Kelly Jones doesn’t have too much to say but gives support act Gaz Coombes a big up, an old pal of theirs from when they toured Europe with Supergrass in 1997 and apparently smoked a lot of grass.
Carrying on with the early hits, ‘Pick a Part That’s New’ is the first song to get the crowd slightly moving, and we get a bit more chatter from Kelly telling how it was written on their first trip to New York. But it’s not all oldies, their next single ‘Indian Summer’ sees Kelly get out his twelve-string. It shows his gravelly voice at its best, an up-tempo acoustic number that leaves us excited to hear what their forthcoming album ‘Graffiti on the Train’ has to offer.
The last few years haven’t been without change for Stereophonics, most notably with the death of their original drummer, the bouffanted Stuart Cable who tragically passed away in 2010. They perform a trio of songs from 2003 album ‘You Gotta Go There to Come Back’, their last with Cable as sticksman and ‘Maybe Tomorrow’ probably gets the biggest crowd reaction of the night.
There is a good mix of songs from all albums throughout, as Kelly says, it’s nice they can pick from songs spanning the last sixteen years, their more recent albums haven’t been received as well as the early stuff but there are a few bangers on each of them and it’s nice to hear them tonight.
They leave us on a string of early songs before coming back for an encore of new material ‘Violins and Tambourines’, which, to be frank, is pretty boring. Though they make up for it with ‘Traffic’ and ‘Dakota’.
Playing a greatest hits set heavily drawn from their first two albums, Stereophonics show they have still got it in them. They clearly enjoy going back to basics, playing relatively intimate venues as a break from the arena circuit.
Words by Paul Melbourne
Photos by Meg Hope