Concert Review: Stereophonics

The Tivoli, April 28, 2018

I actually met Kelly Jones once. OK so ‘met’ is a bit of a long stretch, but some mates and I did run into him and Paul Weller drinking wine together in the car park of a Toronto Hotel where they–and us–were staying for Virgin Festival back in 2008.  

Anyway, being the least cool person ever in situations like that, I was so star struck about bumping into Weller that I barely noticed or cared about seeing some bloke from Stereophonics. Weller was super chatty (and pissed),  posed for photos with us, and asked if we wanted Kelly in the photos. I think we were just too excited at being in the presence of the Modfather because we were all pretty much like “nah it’s alright”.

Anyway, fast forward ten years, and I now really like Stereophonics. I first saw them live at that Festival the day after, and they were really, really good. I’ve been a fan ever since. So Kelly, if you’re reading this (Do you reckon he’s one of my approximately 5 regular readers? Probably), sorry about blanking you that day.

Last Saturday at the Tivoli was my third time seeing them, and their first Australian tour in five years during which time they’ve released two new albums: 2015’s Keep the Village Alive and the album they’re currently touring, last year’s Scream Above the Sounds.

Like most things they’ve done over the years, those albums have had fairly mixed reviews. Critics have never really been fond of them; Mojo magazine once labelled Jones one of the worst vocalists in rock. Also not a fan is my wife, who gasped “God, what is THAT you’re listening to?” at me while I was listening to Decade in the Sun the other day.

My wife didn’t accompany me at Stereophonic’s Tivoli show on Saturday night, however Brisbane’s entire Welsh community seemed to be there, decked out in all manner of Welsh flags, rugby jerseys and scarves. Lush.

As usual for concerts with older crowds (at 31 I must have been one of the youngest people there), the venue was packed soon after the doors opened, and so support act Halcyon Drive had a near full house to play to.  The Melbourne three-piece made the most of it, playing a brand of drum-heavy electronic-laced rock which seemed to greatly impress the bloke standing next to me.

Shortly after, allowing just enough time of course for the obligatory 7 foot tall beanpole to stand directly between me and the stage, Stereophonics came on, opening with one of their heaviest songs, ‘Bartender and the Thief’before going on to deliver a two-hour career-spanning set featuring songs from nine of their 10 studio albums.

Sometimes when a band is as deep into their career as Stereophonics you can nod off during the new songs; thankfully that’s not the case here though, with the new songs as welcome in the set as the earlier material. ‘Chances Are’ and ‘Caught by the Wind’ from Scream Above the Sounds in particular strike a chord, both benefitting from the rasp of Jones’ live voice, elevating the songs above the recorded versions.

Naturally, the likes of ‘Local Boy in the Photograph’ and ‘Thousand Trees’ get huge full-throated singalongs from the adoring crowd, but the highlight for me was finally hearing ‘Handbags and Gladrags’ (the Mike d’Abo song made famous by Rod Stewart) as part of a short acoustic set. I can’t work out why, but after hearing it I had an overwhelming urge to get a job with a Slough paper merchant?

The night finished with Stereophonic’s now-traditional set closer, mega-hit ‘Dakota’ which featured stage-invading Welshmen and the biggest singalong of the night to close out the evening. They may not be to everyone’s tastes, but for fans Stereophonics in 2018 remain at the top of their game.

Setlist

The Bartender and the Thief
Vegas Two Times
Mr Writer
Chances Are
Catacomb
Same Size Feet
Have a Nice Day
Caught by the Wind
Maybe Tomorrow
Superman
100MPH
Geronimo
I Wouldn’t Believe Your Radio
Handbags and Gladrags (Mike d’Abo cover)
Step On My Old Size Nines
Graffiti on the Train
Mr and Mrs Smith
Traffic
A Thousand Trees
Just Looking
Local Boy in the Photograph
C’est La Vie
Dakota