Review: Stereophonics at Cheltenham Centaur, March 21, 2013

First published in What's On_ Gazette Series: Photograph of the Author by , arts and what's on editor

YOU can’t seem to turn on the radio these days without hearing a song from the new Stereophonics album. And there’s a very good reason for this - the band are back to their eardrum-bursting best and we want to hear more! The boys from the valleys are currently on a mini-tour of smaller venues around the UK, prior to their just-announced arena tour which is due to take place in November. So those present at the Cheltenham Centaur on Thursday evening felt very privileged to be there indeed. Graffiti on The Train was released just a couple of weeks ago, and so it is unfair to assume that the enthusiastic crowd would be as familiar with the opener for the show - 'We Share The Same Sun' - as they undoubtedly were for the many of the band’s older hits, such as 'The Bartender And The Thief' and 'A Thousand Trees'. The set for the evening veers from staple tunes to those from the new album, which are accompanied by a somewhat schmaltzy sepia-tinted rolling film on screen behind the stage. This does, however, serve to give the crowd something to concentrate on if they are not yet familiar enough with the songs to sing along - which is of course what they would all rather be doing. The Stereophonics are something of an enigma, having crept to ‘supergroup’ status rather stealthily, but there is no denying the popularity of their tunes. Their songs seem to split into two categories - half are catchy, crowd-on-their-feet pop rock while the rest are a more aggressive, reverberant wall of sound, with some of the latter category coming over even stronger on stage than they do on the albums. The bluesy Been Caught Cheating is a step away from the Stereophonics norm, but gives singer Kelly Jones the chance to really show off his vocal range. With an extensive back catalogue to choose from (Graffiti is their eighth studio release), the hits just kept on coming, with the biggest receptions reserved for Just Looking, Have A Nice Day, Mr Writer and Local Boy In The Photograph. Future classics already abound on the new album, and current single Indian Summer is sure to get the stadiums rocking when the tour kicks off for real. Title track Graffiti on The Train reels you in with its dark, heart-wrenching lyrics, while other new material such as Violins and Tambourines and Catacomb sound like they have been on the playlist for years. The band gels to perfection, while new drummer Jamie Morrison, formerly of The Noisettes, lends a wildman element to the show, especially with his flamboyant routine on the cajon box drum. The band rounded off their performance in Cheltenham with the feel-good Dakota - their only number one single to date - leaving the delighted audience to head home in the pouring rain with smiles on their faces.

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