We’re in the thick of the pre-Christmas indoor gig season, and this time at the Manchester Arena, it was the Stereophonics’ turn on the second night of their 10-date tour following the release of their latest album Keep The Village Alive.
21 times the size of the village they formed in, the Manchester Arena demands a setlist that covers a lot of years. For bands like Stereophonics, it is vital to combine current with previous in terms of selecting the right amount of songs to be able to pass their night off as a success. I Wanna Get Lost With You and Ce La Vie kick off the night, they’re received well, the best new ones of the night.
They may not top the rankings for the best live band I’ve seen, or the best blow-away performance that I’ve had before, but Kelly Jones certainly nails an almost perfect recreation of their studio material. Pick A Park That’s New and Have A Nice Day are the highlights of the first half of the gig. To confetti, they please a packed Manchester Arena, the scale of which is only recognised when you go through the wrong entrance to the standing area and have to clamber down seating to get to the floor.
Their famous cover, Handbags and Gladrags is a highlight, as expected. The stage crew are as well-choreographed too, Jones moves from piano to microphone frequently and his and the band’s best performance on the former is the new Sunny which although juxtaposes the wet and wild December night it is in Manchester, it sits well in the indoor venue. Staggeringly, their best, Local Boy In The Photograph, completes a 22-song set before a 4-song encore. Certainly money well spent in that department. Maybe Tomorrow and Dakota finalise a night that fulfilled mediocre expectations but not much more.
For me, they couldn’t quite provide enough to mobilise the couples at the side, or scale down the huge venue to an intimate one like other bands have done. Perhaps the best dates were the two warm-ups in Liverpool and Nottingham. They play a huge gig in Cardiff next year, they’ll need to rediscover energy and turn up the rock of the pop-rock, the genre of which they are the stalwarts.