The thunder and torrential rain relented and, under glowering skies, The Stereophonics returned to the scene of their triumphant 2016 performance before a sold-out Racecourse Ground, Wrexham. It is twenty years since the release of debut album, ‘Word Gets Round’ and the set tonight saw the band deliver a stunning showcase of their career to date.
The build-up had begun in late afternoon with storming sets from rising South Walians Fire Road and Manchester’s PINS before main support act Jake Bugg took the stage in front of an expectant crowd that was growing by the minute and was in full voice by the time he finished with a storming version of Lightning Bolt.
The Stereophonics took the stage and launched straight into C’est la Vie from their 2016 album, Keeping the Village Alive followed by the title track from their subsequent offering Caught by the Wind. However, as Kelly Jones points out, time has flown since their debut and the frantic delivery of A Thousand Trees and More Life in a Tramp’s Vest, and the subsequent audience reaction indicates neither band nor audience have lost any energy.
With the massive crowd now fully in the swing, classic after classic were delivered; Have Nice Day, the beautiful Graffiti on the Train and Indian Summer from 2013’s triumphant return to recording and Maybe Tomorrow sitting snugly besides Superman and Geronimo.
The stage design featured a catwalk with elevator, which allowed the band to deliver a stripped back part of the set to great effect. I Wouldn’t Believe Your Radio and the Bluesie brilliant Been Caught Cheating preceded the communal sing-along of Handbags and Gladrags before the set built towards a resounding climax.
The pulsing brilliance of Local Boy in the Photograph and The Bartender and the Thief provided a thunderous closure to the main set and led to an ovation the likes of which hasn’t been seen at this ground since Dixie McNeil and co were banging them in. Kelly Jones even provided a touching reminder of the appearance of the late, great Motorhead, who once graced this stadium by dropping The Ace of Spades into the closing bars.
As the encores began, Kelly Jones reflected on the first twenty years of the band’s career and stressed that The Stereophonics had always been about music and not celebrity and, when you consider some of their early contemporaries, that is certainly no bad thing. The tracks delivered as encores emphasise that the song will always be king for this band. Chances Are from their most recent album, Scream Above the Sounds, was followed by the brooding brilliance of Catacomb before Mr and Mrs Smith demonstrated again the observational genius of the Kelly Jones lyrics.
However, on a June night in North Wales, with a crowd ready to blow, there really is only one way to end and Dakota provided the perfect explosive finish with as lusty a singalong as the stadium has seen in years. The giant floodlights have gazed down on many of the greats over the years and The Stereophonics have now joined that list as their two recent appearances have ensured that The Racecourse is firmly established as their North Wales stronghold.
Photo courtesy of Stead Photos: Twitter @steaddotphotos