Stereophonics gear up for the summer festival season at a triumphant Echo Arena warm up, Getintothis’ Howard Doupé was there to see the action.
As the sunshine days came to an abrupt end and a grey, rainy Liverpool resumed there was only one question at the forefront of this reviewers mind: are Stereophonics even relevant anymore?
Yes, they exploded as pioneers on Richard Branson’s V2– his new label venture at the time, had their heyday and are still plodding on. Not too sure that’s the finest way to describe a band that have managed six UK number one albums and have some pretty humongous shows planned for the summer.
Still, the Echo Arena is only filling up slowly by the time support Atlantic Machine finish their set. On to the stage set and an extremely high drum riser peers down on the crowd, whilst a runway complete with vertical LED strip lights struts out partway into the floor.
Strolling out to Link Wray’s Rumble, frontman Kelly Jones comes right out to meet the swathes of mobile phones held aloft.
Straight into C’est La Vie from 2015’s Keep The Village Alive– the band very quickly sets a tempo. Caught By The Wind from last year’s Scream Above The Sounds follows. From the off it’s evident, their live show’s a well oiled machine. A set full of the crowd pleasers – you could have written it.
The somewhat subdued audience do finally get excited, although it takes the hits to stick a lightning bolt up their collective arses. Local Boy In The Photograph jolts a handful of seaters up on their feet, but they’re few and far between.
The momentum continues to gather pace with I Wanna Get Lost With You. Throughout bassist Richard Jones keeps his position stage left. Throwing poses he resembles an apprentice direct from the Adam Clayton school of bass playing.
No surprises, there’s a few from their tenth studio album scattered throughout. All In One Night goes down well although the addition of a saxophonist on Geronimo just feels odd at this kind of gig.
Back to the extended stage and a full band performance of Handbags And Gladrags under chiffon shaded floor lamps gets the loudest cheer of the night. For the first time tonight the added brass finds a home.
During one of the few interactions with the crowd Jones recalls their many trips to this fair city over the years, even reminiscing of the old Lomax with affection. From the number of cheers it’s obvious they’ve picked up many a fan along the way rather than keeping hold over the years.
By the end the big guns are out. A sheer six track arsenal of much loved faves see the main set out: Just Looking, Traffic, A Thousand Trees, More Life In A Tramps Vest and The Bartender And The Thief. The crowd finally raise their game and show their appreciation for the trip down memory lane.
What remains tonight is the voice. Jones sounds as strong and as defined as he did when they were merely young Welsh hopefuls on the UK rock scene. The gravel is unmistakable and doesn’t dip all night.
Back to that original question, here’s the answer. Tonight we discovered that an old favourite dies hard. Yes, the more recent tunes may have wandered into trab-territory. Jones and co. prove that despite ever-changing musical landscapes, trends and fads with a few line-up changes, Peter Pan genes and mid-career hits, there’s still arena-sized venues of adoring fans.
@stereophonics I'm late to this party, but I am rocking with the music these Kats are about
— AmcooSports (@AmcooSports) May 31, 2018
Images by Getintothis’ Tom Adam