Live Review: Stereophonics – First Direct Arena, Leeds 23.03.2022 Plus Gallery

Having a career that spans over three decades is a feat for any band, especially in 2022 but Welsh kings of pop rock Stereophonics are still going strong 25 years after their debut album.

Leeds Arena is a funny old venue, it obviously hosts around 10,000 fans but, because of the crescent shaping of the stage, has the intimate feel of a theatre or an “O2 academy” vibe. Supported by the wonderfully talented KT Tunstall, the West Yorkshire crowd are fired up, waiting for the Welsh legends to hit the stage.

Opener, Do You Feel My Love from latest offering Oochya!, the band immediately bring the energy and the singalongs tonight, C’est La Vie continuing the good vibes as front man Kelly Jones saunters to the front of the runway which separates the front of the crowd. Jones oozes charisma and rockstar coolness, one wink towards anyone in the audience would make them go weak at the knees. “Do you want a sing-a-long, Leeds?” bellows Jones as the band drop into classic Maybe Tomorrow, there isn’t a mouth in the audience that isn’t screaming along to the chorus.

“I went for a very long walk, on a very hot day and had a very long drink and wondered to myself, how the fuck did I end up here?” states Jones before the band play newer track Right Place, Right Time. Another track from Oochya! that is an immediate classic for the band is All I Have Is You, the lyrics clearly striking a chord with lots of members of the crowd who might’ve gone through a similar experience with a loved one.

The beautiful thing about a band having a career so dense as Stereophonics is that they have a song for every emotion. The age range of the audience at a glance has spanned decades, but, the majority of the crowd seemed a similar age to Jones & co so have lived these emotions at a parallel. Track Mr and Mrs Smith touches on a more raunchier subject and makes the crowd go wild for a Wednesday. During the final part of the track, a drum kit is set up at the foot of the runway with the full band joining drummer Jamie Morrison to finish the track.

The band stay at the end of the runway and treat everyone to four tracks from debut album Word Gets Around, the highlight most definitely coming in the form of indie banger A Thousand Trees. It’s not only the bands electrifying performance that is spellbinding tonight, but the lighting and stage show must be commended; the lighting is simply stunning and captivating and seamlessly mirrors the emotion and vibe of the crowd whilst the use of four huge screens at the back of the stage really brings a headline festival feel to the evening.

Have A Nice Day is one of the highlights of the evening and is another chance for the almost sold-out crowd to lose themselves in the music, people start creeping onto shoulders and those in the seating are lifted from their chairs and can’t help but dance along. How do you perfectly close out a set before an encore? Stereophonics will show you how with their mesmerising cover of Handbags and Gladrags into the lairy The Bartender and the Thief, utter perfection.

The Welsh sextet (if you include touring musicians) return for the encore and dazzle with a further three tracks but it’s the closer Dakota which makes everyone in the room lose their mind one last time. There is beer being thrown (at £7 a pint might we add… ouch!), small mosh pits and the crowd dancing like nobody is watching even if the band are on their 24th song of the evening! Stereophonics are one of the greatest live bands and certainly did not disappoint. 30 years since their formation, they’re still providing one of the best live shows around, a masterpiece in live performance.

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