Stereophonics review – back-to-basics rock and singalongs heard for miles

FlyDSA Arena, Sheffield
Twenty years on, the Welsh band still have a reassuring appeal that makes for a predictable but reliable show

There’s an eerie agelessness to Stereophonics. Two decades on from what might be considered their heyday, they are touring yet another No 1 album – Kind, their seventh UK chart topper – still filling arenas and their 45-year-old frontman Kelly Jones barely looks a minute past 30. This is further emphasised by their immutable musical output, with their bordering on stubborn refusal to go beyond their traditional rock roots.

It results in a predictable but reliable evening. The opening C’est La Vie is one of the band’s liveliest songs, driven by scratchy accelerated guitar lines and a pop-heavy chorus, and it sets the tone for a show that ricochets between noisy rock and stripped-back ballads.

It’s not until a trio of older songs are played – Maybe Tomorrow, Have a Nice Day and Mr Writer – that the crowd test their lungs. Despite the feeble lyrical attack of Mr Writer, musically it’s one of the most powerful moments of the night. A solid groove gives way to heavy blasts of eruptive guitar as quietly tumbling piano-lines mesh together nicely. Elsewhere, the rattling urgency and infectious charge of Local Boy in the Photograph still possesses youthful pluck.

Rattling urgency ... Stereophonics.
Rattling urgency ... Stereophonics. Photograph: Joel Goodman

Things get bogged down in the mid-tempo zone and the formulaic approach to some songs – you can set your watch by when a big swaggering guitar solo is due – can drag proceedings and render them void of surprise and variation. However, there’s enough firepower to move past such sags. Handbags and Gladrags gives off a familiar warmth, there’s a touching and funny tribute to the band’s late drummer Stuart Cable via Before Anyone Knew Our Name, and the closing duo of Just Looking and Dakota capture what the band do best: no frills back-to-basics rock with choruses that induce singalongs heard for miles.

Little has changed in Stereophonics land, be that comforting or wearisome, but there seems to be an almost reassuring appeal to them, with people taking solace from the chaos of the modern world with a band that can make 2020 feel interchangeable with 2001.

• At Brighton Centre on 2 March. Then touring.


Daniel Dylan Wray

The GuardianTramp

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