Stereophonics are a much loved Welsh rock band that formed 25 years ago in the village of Cwmaman in the Cynon Valley. Fronted by the super talented Kelly Jones, they have gone on to release nine studio albums to date, six of these were UK number one albums.
It was 20 yrs ago that I bought and first played their debut release Word Gets Around, which in my eyes was rammed full of instant crowd pleasing tracks such as "Local Boy in the Photograph" and "More Life in a Tramp's Vest" really having a big effect on me back in the heady days of my 20's.
Fast forward 20 years and here I am at Plymouth Pavilions, eagerly waiting for the band that turned a nation on to their brand of instantly lovable rock music, a nation that would remain loyal followers to this very day. Read on to find out how the evening unfolded.
It soon dawned on me that tonight was very much an all Welsh affair, Fireroad, a rock 4 piece from Aberdare opened up proceedings and bought with them their big sound, I can easily see these tracks being played to stadium sized audiences. Their solid back-line, rounded powerful guitars and tight vocals doing a great job of warming the crowd up nicely for the main act. It was difficult to catch their between song banter as I was stood to the side of the arena but I did catch something about a new release next month, maybe an album? check their social media for more information. All in all, a solid performance from an act that I am sure will do well and judging by the reception they received tonight, they won't have any trouble at all!
The stage was set for the main act and bang on time, they strode onto the stage and kicked straight into their set which was chock full of old time favourites and newer tracks that were unfamiliar to this reviewer but carried the trademark Stereophonics sound which ended up being just as well received as the more recognisable material.
"Have a Nice Day", was the first song where Kelly invited the room to sing along, which they gladly did! "Don't believe your radio" saw the drummer moving to the front of the stage playing a stripped down kit whilst Kelly took to the acoustic guitar to play the track that seemed to outshine the others and become the best of the set so far.
Kelly Stayed on acoustic guitar for the meloncholy tones of "Maybe Tomorrow", his vocals flourishing over the shimmering guitar that metamorphasised into a squealing banshee for the solo. With the audience taking over vocal duties come the end, it left just Kelly playing on his own until it faded to silence.
As I said earlier, there was quite a bit of new material in the set, whilst I was personally unfamiliar with it, it was obvious that it was the Stereophonics behind each track, the big guitars, the winding solos, Kelly's whiskey tinged vocals which have and I guess, always were the driving force of the band, keeping things moving along nicely.
Each member of the band shone tonight, Kelly performed an impressive rip roaring guitar solo whilst the drummer took the limelight towards the end of a track with a blinding solo which had the entire balcony up on its feet come the end, thoroughly deserved I will add!
I was waiting for the older material to come to light and with the opening tones of "Mr Writer", my prayers were answered, the song quickly whisking me back to 2001 and sounding like it could have been written only yesterday!
Kelly's chat between tracks was engaging and he mentioned that he attended an interview in 1994 a Plymouth College, got accepted but after all that effort, decided he wouldn't be able to make it back to Wales for band practise on a Thursday night so sacked it off! Aren't we glad that he did!
He added that there is lots of new material coming out this year and this is the first time they've played it live, from where I was sat, it sounded great and I wonder if the new material will be leading to a new album? It would be so easy for them to re-package "Word Gets Around" and issue it in various different formats as a "20th Anniversary edition", bundled with B-Sides and remixes that never quite made the grade but I would rather see new material from this band that have managed to stay on top of the pack during their career thus far.
Kelly chatted about it being 20 long years since their debut album was released and introduced the opening track "A Thousand Trees" which sounded as fresh as a daisy and was received with a massive cheer and a mass sing-a-long throughout.
This led nicely to "Local boy in the Photograph" where the room literally erupted, how this wasn't the last track of the show I'll never know but unbeknown to me, they had one more trick up their sleeves!
If you weren't familiar with their work, their songs could have been lifted from their debut or their latest 9th long player, obviously the talents of the band have grown exponentially over the years but it's the heart and soul that go into writing songs and this band have bags of that!
"Bartender and the Thief" closed the show but it was clear that there was more to come, much more!
After a short break, Kelly returned to the stage with his acoustic guitar and chatted about the music that used to emenate from his older brother's bedrooms back in the day, he then launched into a medley of cover versions including AC/DC's "Highway to Hell", this merged into "Paranoid" by Black Sabbath, ZZ Top's "Gimme all your Lovin" made an appearance followed by Bruce Springsteen's "Dancing in the Dark" and ended with the classic "Rock 'n Roll" by Led Zeppelin.
Remaining on acoustic, Billy Davey's Daughter sounded beautiful with just Kelly's vocals ringing out over the top of the guitar....Word gets around indeed!
He was joined by the rest of the band for "Same Sized Feet", the guitar riff taking the limelight and allowed the band an opportunity to rock out and let go!
After a two hour performance, they launched into "Step on my Old Sized Nines" before bringing the curtain down on the evening with "Dakota" which had everyone in the balcony on their feet!
I saw Stereophonics back in the late 90's at a festival and I must say that tonight's performance was on par with this, the energy that the band displayed, their attitude to the fans and the between song banter all adding up to a kick ass performance that will certainly go down as one of the finest to be hosted at Plymouth Pavilions!
Review by Steve Muscutt
Photography by Rhodri Cooper