'Sinking deeper and deeper into a turgid mire'...
Stereophonics have one great song. Tonight they career through ‘Local Boy In The Photograph’ with something close to punk venom. It closes the set and sounds like an angry, bleak classic. That one song aside, watching Stereophonics is like finding yourself in quicksand. With each new song you flail around attempting to find the stick that 12,000 people gathered willingly to cling on to, but instead end up sinking deeper and deeper in a turgid mire.
The trick they pull is an odd one. How they have become so revered by so many is impossible to say. Kelly Jones is singularly unengaging. It will take more than the dark glasses and sneer he sports tonight to turn him a rock star. His voice is also a problem. He’s a great MOR singer but a bad rock’n’roll singer. The point is rammed home during the cover of ‘Handbags and Gladrags’. It’s a desperately sad song and was Rod Stewart’s finest moment before he lost his soul and decided to become a joke. Jones follows the style set by the second incarnation.
Stereophonics try to rock, of course. They stand on rugs, like The Black Crowes, and they’re proficient, too. Sometimes they even like to jack it up and imagine they’re AC/DC. But something is constantly missing. It’s not just that they are bludgeoningly earnest – earnest has its place. More simply, there is no spark, no frisson, no transcendental moment that every act that is the real deal possesses. Liam Gallagher (a constant and obvious touchstone) can make magic with the tilt of his head. Kelly Jones can’t. And Stereophonics are also rather boring. As the concert progresses, your mind starts to wander and you ask yourself if you started counting everyone inside the arena, moving from left to right, how far could you get by the end of the night.
Stereophonics announce their intent to play tracks from their latest album and it sounds like an apology. NME counts to 700 before sleep sets in.