Belfast Telegraph

Stereophonics have a nice day at Belsonic Belfast

Stereophonics - Belsonic, Custom House Square

By Michael Conaghan

Belsonic gigs have a certain inevitability these days; main band takes the stage, glances anxiously at uncertain sky, lead singer slags off people at nearby flats getting free access, band produces belter of a set.

Tailor-made for the Stereophonics one might think, survivors from the 90s who have negotiated the choppy waters of the 21st century while more allegedly favoured combos like Oasis have bitten the dust.

Much of their drive can be laid at the door of lead singer Kelly Jones, whose voice, something of a Marmite proposition it has to be said, is the hard liquor in their own definition of their music as “classic UK rock with whisky vocals”.

In an era of declining record sales, they have taken the festival high road to maintain their status, and a Custom House Square as packed as I’ve ever seen it last night was testament to their success, but there is also some new product in the offing, with forthcoming album Keep the Village Alive. 

They opened with tough but discordant Catacomb, a smart move which only emphasised the melodic strength of early material like The Boy in the Photograph and 1000 Trees but they do like to rock out, swapping solos in the rain like proper grimy rock ‘n’ rollers.

There are those who level the accusation that The Stereophonics have a certain amount of never mind the quality feel the statistics element, and who can argue with five consecutive number one albums and an appearance at Live8?

If less inspired tracks have a certain knock off Oasis quality, the band’s endurance has always lain in their ability to blindside expectations with a sudden outburst of sheer quality. For me last night, that was the soulful bluesiness of Graffiti on the Train, and indeed the sumptuousness of new single Song for the Summer.

And a band that’s been around as long as they have will always have a few bankers to leaven the odd obscure  B-side. So You Can Have It All, Have a Nice Day, and above all perhaps, a climactic Dakota, whose clipped New Order rhythms surprised everybody long enough to give the band their only number one.

Not that these things matter to serious music reviewers of course, but I was reliably informed by certain parties last night that Kelly Jones has the best eyebrows this side of Andy Burnham.

Unusually taciturn for a Welshman, he and his band will always prefer to let the music do the talking.

So why shouldn’t the Stereophonics enjoy their time in the (occasional) sun.

Four stars

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