Stereophonics at Bonus Arena, Hull, UK – 22nd May 2019

Posted by Bianca on Wednesday May 22, 2019 Under Alternative rock, Rock

Gig Review by Simon Saynor with Photography by Mark Loraine

Welsh maestros Stereophonics have a busy summer ahead and so it is that they announced three intimate warm up shows. Admittedly the Bonus Arena holds 3,500 I believe so it all depends on your own personal interpretation of intimate. Given the last time I saw them I was in a crowd of somewhere around 40,000 it’s all relative really.

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I’ll be honest, I wasn’t totally up for this gig. I’d been up since 4am for work and my cat (and best mate), Geoffrey, had been missing for days. Still, I wasn’t gonna miss Stereophonics no matter my frame of mind. It’s no surprise that the gig had been a sell out since the day tickets went on sale.

The theme from 1979’s cult classic ‘The Warriors’ thunders around the packed arena, an impressive light show already in full effect and you just have that sense that the band are definitely gonna be bringing their A-Game out tonight. I wasn’t wrong. They launch into ‘C’est La Vie’, lead single from 2015’s ‘Keeping The Village Alive’. The song has always stunned me. At what point does Kelly Jones breathe? Live it’s a staggering opener to a 23 song set with 8 of their 10 studio albums represented. That is some back catalogue to go at. There were songs tonight pushing a quarter of a century old that sound as fresh as they did in the late 90s. Speaking of sounding (and looking) fresh I don’t know what they feed them in Wales but Kelly hasn’t aged a day since debut album ‘Word Gets Around ‘ went top ten back in 1997.

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‘Have A Nice Day’ and ‘Maybe Tomorrow’ bring out the first singalongs of the evening. It seemed that every single one of the 3,500 was giving it their all as the band kept ‘Maybe Tomorrow’ rolling as the stage crew set up a mini stage at the front of the runway part of the stage. The band saunter down the catwalk and deliver ‘I Wouldn’t Believe Your Radio’ and the immortal Mike d’Abo classic ‘Handbags And Gladrags’. (Before all that we got a mass happy birthday singalong for bassist Richard Jones). The band retreat into the darkness and leave the other Jones boy on his own at the front of the runway, acoustic in hand, just a lone spotlight picking him out as he swoons, sways and at times swaggers through ‘Hurry Up And Wait’. Now some gigs you leave thinking that was brilliant, some, sadly, you leave thinking that was awful. Others leave you feeling ambivalent. And every now and again there is that rare gig that is virtually indescribable (says the man currently trying to describe such a gig). As Kelly stood in that spotlight and sang I was transfixed. Suddenly there wasn’t 3,500 people there. It was me, that sole light, that guitar, that song and that voice. It was truly mesmerising. An intimate gig? Of course it was. It wasn’t till it was over and the crowd roared that I was snapped out of my reverie and realised just where I was. Like I said it’s a very rare moment and one only live music can deliver.

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Jones is back on the stage proper with his bandmates as they go into ‘Mr. Writer’, sounding so much darker and more dangerous than the recorded version. A piano is wheeled on stage for ‘Sunny’. Mid-song Kelly leaves the keyboard, grabs his trusty guitar and, there’s no other word for it, shreds. When the list of guitar heroes does the rounds the usual old suspects are touted. Cwmaman’s favourite son more than deserves to be on that list. ‘Chaos From The Top Down’, released earlier this year follows and from there on in the band are relentless. It is just banger after banger after banger after banger. 25 years of honing their craft have given us a band who know just how to build a show to a stunning crescendo. Debut single ‘Local Boy In The Photograph’ is just magnificent as is set closer ‘The Bartender And The Thief’, given the full 3 minute punk-epic treatment. It could have been penned in 1976. And they’re gone. Briefly. Two encores just doesn’t seem enough but, hey, always leave them wanting more. ‘Dakota’ naturally finishes the show. It is an absolute triumph.

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Give or take a minute or two we’ve just witnessed 2 hours of an awesome live band right at the pinnacle of their game. Stereophonics head out for their busy summer. Make sure you catch them. You won’t regret it.

(And when I got home Geoffrey was waiting on my doorstep – that is the power of music my friends).

Set List:
C’est La Vie
Caught by the Wind
I Wanna Get Lost With You
All in One Night
Superman
Geronimo
Step On My Old Size Nines
Have a Nice Day
Maybe Tomorrow
I Wouldn’t Believe Your Radio
Handbags and Gladrags
Hurry Up and Wait
Mr Writer
Sunny
Chaos From the Top Down
Just Looking
Indian Summer
Traffic
A Thousand Trees
Local Boy in the Photograph
The Bartender and the Thief
Encore:
Mr and Mrs Smith
Dakota

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