Live Report: Stereophonics - O2 Arena, London

Live Report: Stereophonics - O2 Arena, London

A compelling career-spanning performance...

Anticipation and excitement fill up the arena as Stereophonics take the stage, all accompanied by cheering and clapping. That the rock and roll band are playing on a Friday does not account for the scale of enthusiasm that unfolds at the packed venue.

For the Welsh rockers, the forceful combo of more than twenty years of experience in recording and playing live point to one thing; unadulterated popularity, mainstream success, chart topping albums and slick, polished live performances. This show supports all the aforementioned.

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For songwriter and frontman Kelly Jones tonight is about going the extra mile. A masterclass in showmanship, there is focus on the anecdotal, the authentic, what is true with the right amount of nostalgia. Too much could have been cheesy, but this really works. It is an absorbing, all-consuming style of narrative.

Twenty-three songs and an encore depict a well-curated, fan-pleasing running order, covering the biggest hits blended in with recent material. This is a winning formula, and the crowd is with them, it is about being present.

Kickstarting with ‘C’est La Vie’ immediately followed by ‘I Wanna Get Lost With You’ lets the energy flow, it gets the crowd hungry, with Jones being on top-form, all fans are getting what they came for. Ornate lighting projects shifting colours focused on red, yellow and green plus glitter effects. This combination enhances the overall display.

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Next up is ‘Bust This Town’ from ‘Kind’. The compelling track tackles the idea of living for the moment, have the strength to break conventional rules and never look back. It works wonders when performed live. The more heavy ‘Geronimo’ creates a suitable contrast, whereas, ‘Maybe Tomorrow’ provides a moment of emotion while everyone singing along.

A big cheer from the crowd follows, with Jones teasing, “Do you feel like singing, London? C’mon, one more! Beautiful!”. The scene is set, ready for one of many big ones. “Here’s a song I wrote in San Francisco”, he goes on, “it is called ‘Have A Nice Day’ “. ‘Mr Writer’ follows, an epic delivery that culminates in a moment of ecstasy where dimly lit blue fairy light-effects capture a night-time feel.

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The anthemic weight of ‘Local Boy In the Photograph’ adds a superb touch to the overall experience, ‘Traffic’ is more about intimacy and closeness, a track where Jones’ acoustic guitar playing leads everything. Having the ability to create intimacy at arena size venues no doubt is a rare quality. ‘Graffiti On the Train’ gives a sense of melancholy where piano sounds and guitars meld in.

Drenched in orange lighting, a sunrise effect is created, it paves the way for the stunning gospel hymn-inspired ‘Make Friends With the Morning’ also from ‘Kind’. Even without the backing of gospel singers Jones’ vocals sound strong and together. Meanwhile, ‘Superman’ injects an atmospheric hard-rock element to things with its stomping vibe and heavy beat.

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Jones goes on to talk about when he first started Stereophonics from a “dead end street” in South Wales, he was in number 42, and Stuart Cable lived in number 62. He would often arrive to find a drummer, who wasn’t exactly ready for rehearsals. The anecdote creates the ideal build up before the soulful ‘Before Anyone Knew Our Name’. Similarly, ‘Sunny’ signifies a key moment where Jones delivers a prolonged, mesmeric guitar solo.

Following an encore consisting of ‘Elevators’, ‘Just Looking’ and ‘Dakota’, it is time to end what has been a flawless series of snapshots that highlight what a compelling force Stereophonics are, and how much they continue to give people. Bright, polished and joyous, this is all anyone could wish for.

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Words: Susan Hansen
Photography: Liz Gander

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