“It’s been five years since we was last here. Sorry about that…” grinned Kelly Jones to a packed Forum, in his iconic, rugged Welsh tone midway through last night’s epic, pumping gig. “…but it’s a fucken long way innit?”
Wales’ finest soon made up for the time and the distance with a thrashing start that got everyone immediately bouncing around to “The Bartender & The Thief”.
That set the scene for a powerhouse of a show that glided effortlessly between their iconic raging, thumping rock bangers, through lighter pop hits, and sentimental classics, without losing impact or emotion, guided magnificently by one of rock’s most distinctive voices.
Listen to Ugly Phil’s interview with the band here:
And check out the review of their Sydney Opera House gig here. It’s noticeable and impressive that aside from the opener and the closer in the encore, the setlists have been different for all their Aussie shows – yet each has held together and showed the full range of this phenomenal band.
Arguably the highlight of the night was bringing drummer Jamie Morrison front of stage to snare right beside Kelly Jones on "Handbags and Gladrags" – the Rod Stewart track that Stewart himself now arranges in The Stereophonics’ style so perfectly have they covered it.
Morrison was on fire whether at front or back of stage and it was fitting that the band put "Mr & Mrs Smith" in as part of last night’s encore (other Australian Tour dates have only had two encore songs, Melbourne striking lucky with a bonus third), allowing their new drummer a worthy spotlight for an epic solo. Morrison only joined the band in 2012; the original, iconic stickman Stuart Cable, who grew up in the same street as Jones, tragically passing away aged just 40 in 2010.
Early in the night, as he introduced “A Thousand Trees”, Kelly Jones pointed out this was the song that started everything off for them when Word Gets Around was released over 20 years ago. Which reminded me of the first time I’d seen The Stereophonics live, in Nottingham, England, not long after that release.
It was striking how the band have lost nothing of their raw passion and gained plenty in stage experience since.
But one thing hasn’t changed in the slightest…Kelly Jones. The bloke hasn't aged at all. He looks exactly the same and still has all the strut he did two decades ago, as if his attic has a portrait of a balding, fat, decrepit old rocker in it.
I wasn’t the only person to soak up the nostalgia as part of a heavily Anglo-Welsh crowd. Shout out to the blokes with the massive Welsh flag saluted by the band – not sure that would be getting rolled out all that often around these parts apart from last night.
Whether Pom, Welsh, Aussie or other, the Forum was packed with people blissfully losing their shit throughout. Especially as they built through the slower numbers, popular "Have A Nice Day", a stunning arrangement of "Sunny" into a high octane, raise-the-roof finish with "Just Looking" and "Local Boy In The Photograph".
The energy and sheer bloody enjoyment in the room was incredible, acknowledged throughout by the band who clearly enjoyed themselves too. After closing out their encore with "Dakota" (natch), Kelly kept coming back and waving “one last time”.
Something tells me it won’t be another five years until we see The Stereophonics Down Under again.
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The Bartender & The Thief
Vegas Two Times
A Thousand Trees
Caught By The Wind
All In One Night
I Wouldn't Believe Your Radio
Handbags & Gladrags
Step On My Old Size Nines
Graffiti On The Train
Have A Nice Day
I Wanna Get Lost With You
Local Boy In The Photograph
C'est La Vie
Mr and Mrs Smith