Review: Stereophonics – SSE Arena Belfast
At exactly 8.50pm on this Thursday evening, Stereophonics stepped onto the stage of the SSE Arena and proceeded to smash their way through some 25 songs, from 10 studio albums to a packed Belfast venue on this leg of their UK and Ireland arena tour.
Kicking the marathon show off with Chances Are, the inimitable Kelly Jones swaggered out on to the peninsula of the stage set up, that took him out into the heart of the crowd flanked by what could only be described as red Star Wars-esque light sabers that guided his path. In the 21 years of the Stereophonics Jones has changed little, save tonight for the ditching of his trademark leather jacket in favour of a canvas type number.
C’est La Vie steps it up with its thumping back-beat and not for the first time tonight songs from their 1997 debut album ‘Word Gets Around’ get the fast treatment, played at a faster pace than the original. Maybe they are just trying to fit in as many tunes as possible tonight but it sounds great.
We get the first proper big sing along track of the night with Have A Nice Day and a damp and cold Thursday night becomes a very sunny San Francisco for a time.
One thing that is apparent about the Stereophonics is there is no need for story time, it is, as Kelly Jones further re-iterated later in the show, all about the music.
Superman crashes in and Kelly Jones growls “you don’t don’t know what it’s been like, meeting someone like you”. Is it all right to say it has a Muse vein running straight through the heart of this song.
They bring out the brass horn for Geronimo, not the Native American Indian, but the thundering rolling train that this song is before the atmosphere is returned to a manageable level with the relaxing feel of Graffiti On The Train with a video wall backdrop of an NYC subway. Whilst the video screen is absolutely huge at times you actually forget the fact it is there. The sound alone is that taking centre stage.
The band sets up on the stage peninsula in the middle of the crowd which gives an intimate feel to this huge arena gig. Six men, two old fashioned standard lights and in reality probably a rug up there to finish the look they embrace an acoustic feel to this section of the show. Pick a Part, with it’s full audience participation, the bluesy swagger of Been Caught Cheating and the unmistakable Handbags and Gladrags, quite possibly the best cover of the song originally written by Mike d’Abo of Manfred Mann. Free Pub Quiz fact for you there!
Boy On The Bike, from the 2017 release ‘Scream Above The Sounds’ is a fabulous reflection of a childhood in Wales but the reality is that it is a new song, not as well known as some and so a lot of the crowd feel the need to catch up with some chatter. It’s gotta be frustrating for those who actually like the song and no doubt for the band. “C’est La Vie” as they say.
Kelly Jones sits down behind the piano for the opening of Sunny and engages in a rare conversation with the audience. A thank you for all their support, buying the records and coming to see the band live. It was never about the celebrity or the fame and always just about the music. They delivered that over the last 21 years. Jones steps away from the piano for the remainder of the song and delivers a guitar solo that just has energy aching from every pore of his soul. There are no half measures in this show.
The opening chords of Just Looking are met with the biggest roar of the evening and in a nutshell from here on in its a sing along party through the biggest songs from ‘Word Gets Around’, Traffic and the biggest tune of the night at that point A Thousand Trees.
They last song before the short encore break is Bartender and The Thief. It is absolutely huge, brash and loud and Kelly Jones throws in a little of Motorhead’s Ace of Spades for good measure. So short it may have been missed but it is there none the less.
It’s a short wait before the band come and give us three final songs to end the night. During Mr and Mrs Smith drummer Jamie Morrison miraculously rises up from under the added stage set up in the middle of the crowd and absolutely gives his drum kit one hell of a beating. He gave it his all and thoroughly deserved the plaudits from both this huge crowd and the rest of the band on his walk back to his normal position. Not sure about the socks though!
Local Boy in The Photograph was followed by a Kelly Jones solo introduction to Dakota. It was countdown to lift off and they delivered power, pace and the perfect sing along ending to what could only be described as a monumental show.
After 21 years Stereophonics are still going strong and show no signs of letting up. Two hours and ten minutes after the first chord they finally decide that was it and left the stage. I suspect they could have played all night. Here’s to the next time.