Monday, May 16, 2005

Live Review: Stereophonics@Metro 5/9/05

Is it just me, or does this band get absolutely no cred in the States? Well, maybe they don't much cred anywhere else either (see "Mr. Writer"), but at least they seem to have a lot of fans in their home country (their latest single went to #1 on the UK charts in March). Over here, the masses love Coldplay, Oasis, Travis, etc. However, despite having a sound that's relatively similar to all of those bands, Stereophonics can't seem to buy a break in the U.S. All I have to do is mention the name to my friends and it's like "oh god no, I don't want to listen that." The funny thing is, I'm usually the one that's doing the scoffing when certain bands are mentioned. Granted, I do have a soft spot for Brit-pop, but even fellow Anglophiles I know seem to diss the band more often than not. So why am I so forgiving of this band, despite my usual rock critic-esque surliness? I've had my theories about this, but it became a lot clearer after seeing them live... -------- For the Chicago stop of their latest North American tour promoting the new album Sex.Language.Violence.Other?, the Welsh trio played Metro, an all-time favorite venue of mine that is equally conducive to quiet acoustic performances (thanks to its size) and loud, bombastic rock performances (thanks to its amazing PA). Much to my surprise, this night ended up markedly in the later category. In fact, I almost didn't even recognize the band when they came on stage. They came out dressed in black looking all punk rock. Lead singer Kelly Jones looked especially different up there, sporting some spiked up hair and Bono-esque fly sunglasses. (This wasn't the same pretty-boy I remembered from the "Have a Nice Day" video??) The band didn’t just look the part either, they had indeed arrived to rock. No acoustic numbers, no poppy ballads...almost the entire set consisted of driving rock songs. Of course, it's not like the band is a stranger to rock anthems. Last album's "High as the Ceiling" was a perfect match for a recent Nissan SUV ad, and I seem to recall Performance and Cocktails being a rather raucous affair. Despite this fact, I've always thought of Stereophonics as a pop/ballad type of band. From the looks and sound of it at this show, it's pretty clear that the band is trying to squash this image. Overall, I'd say they pulled off this feat quite well. They came out firing with the opening track from the new album and just ripped through the first half of the set with mostly new material. This section culminated with their ridiculously infectious new single, "Dakota," which benefited even more from the energy of a live setting. After experiencing this blistering new jam, the rest of the set was a bit anticlimactic. Luckily the band hadn't completely blown their wad in that first half, as they still saved a couple of secret weapons for the end. For the encore, Jones came out solo for a performance of "Maybe Tomorrow." In keeping with the night's theme, Jones opted to strum a distorted electric guitar rather than doing the usual solo acoustic approach. Regardless of whether this was a conscious decision to keep things "rockin" or not, it sounded amazing and was easily one of the highlights of the night for me. Perhaps, the highlight of the night, however, was their closing number. After being re-joined the rest of the band for two more songs, Jones then tore into the opening riff of "I Wanna Be Your Dog," and he and rest of the band capped off the night with a rousing rendition of the Stooges classic. ----- So...what is it about this band that makes me eschew my usual rock critic-esque surliness? I think the answer just may be in that cover of "I Wanna Be Your Dog." Despite having a soft-spot for the band, I would have never thought of Stereophonics as being the type of band that could pull off a good Stooges cover; but I'll be damned if they didn't. I always did hear a bit of soul in this band, and seeing their live performance certainly reaffirmed my belief in this. No, I'm not talking about the Smokey Robinson/ Motown kind of soul...but the intense, spiritual kind of energy. Jones is actually quite a wee little man (I'd say like 5'4”-5'5"), but his intensity and powerful pipes give him an enormous presence both on record and on stage. It sounds like the lyrics he's belting out are actually bleeding right out of his soul. Of course, the raspyness of his voice certainly adds a bit of a dramatic effect, but there still seems to be a lot of intensity and sincerity behind those shredded vocals. Stereophonics are never going to be a band that's going to revolutionize the music world nor would I expect any type of OK Computer opus from them any time soon. Nonetheless, I think they're a decent little rock band that is seriously underrated on this side of the pond. While I probably wouldn't recommend picking up their entire back catalog, I would definitely recommend downloading some of their singles, especially if you dig the Brit-pop sound. Then, once you get hooked on them like me, go check 'em out live here at a small club sometime in between their giant outdoor festival gigs in Europe.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

i think maybe you mean "no cred" up there in the first sentence?

5/16/2005 05:21:00 PM  
Blogger Brad K said...

thank you!

5/16/2005 05:38:00 PM  
Anonymous Bill V said...

No grammar corrections from me, I liked their first 2 or 3 CDs, have seen them three times and have not really liked their show. Travis is pretty lame (I don't know why americans drool over them), and Stereophonics should get treated better here, but their best is probably behind them.

5/17/2005 10:24:00 AM  

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