Stereophonics - Cardiff Castle
Wales has been basking in the golden rays of a much needed Indian summer for over a month now, not a drop of rain has fallen on the Capital...until today that is. Whoever decided to organise an open air gig in Wales for October was a hell of an optimist and, well, luck ran out. Gale force winds and driving rain welcome 10,000 loyal ‘Phonics fans to the stunning setting of Cardiff Castle; a stoic bunch , they are not easily dissuaded. Fitting then that we are here to mark the onset of promotion for new album Keep Calm and Carry On.
It is an interesting experiment which sees this event take place in the middle of a Saturday afternoon in broad daylight. In some respects it feels more like a sporting event and the crowd, sporting rugby jerseys and chanting ‘Wales, Wales’ ad infinitum do little to dispel this vibe. Queues have been snaking around the Castle since early morning and by the time that support band Goldie Lookin’ Chain hit the boards the place is rammed. Kelly is no fool, if you want a crowd warmed up then don’t call in some bunch of fey shoegazers, call in the experts. GLC have the crowd eating out of the grubby hands in no time, dropping a perfect festival set of hits which includes the faultless ‘Guns Don’t Kill People’ and culminates in a mass chant of ‘Your Mother’s Got a Penis’. They may have become the ultimate 21st Century cabaret act but they relish their role as purveyors of potty mouthed light entertainment.
In case you have been on Mars for the last 15 years then the Stereophonics are a Welsh rock band who’ve set up camp somewhere in the blue water between Oasis and AC/DC. This straddling of indie and rock has proven to be too much for many to deal with and thus it has become fashionable to be ever so sniffy about their music. A recent review on The Music Fix claimed that if more than 10% of the population like something then it becomes essentially worthless. The Stereophonics are a band for the remaining 90% and, on this evidence, they look to me like they are having a good time so I think that little statistic might need to be reconsidered. It isn’t a run of the mill gig audience though that’s for sure; stilettos get stuck in the muddy turf as peroxide 40 somethings try and get their husbands to join them in a dance around their knock off Gucci handbags and gladrags. It all takes place in an alcohol fuelled fuzz of camaraderie however and the rain is thwarted in its attempts to dampen the spirits of this party.
The band launch into a cleverly constructed setlist which opens on the uptempo ‘She’s Alrite’ before a nostalgic double whammy of ‘A Thousand Trees’ and the irrepressible ‘More Life in A Tramp’s Vest’. A back catalogue of over 20 bone fide hits allows them the luxury of repeating this formula all night, thus showcasing a fair smattering of their new material without the audience ever becoming agitated or bored as another hit or ancient rarity was always around the corner. ‘Chaplin’ comes as a welcome blast from the past while new songs ‘Could Be The One’ and the raucous ‘Trouble’ promise much for November’s Keep Calm and Carry On release. ‘The Bartender & The Thief’ sees Kelly Jones slip in a few lines from Motorhead’s ‘Ace of Spades’ before he sets off on a rambling tale of their afternoon stroll about Cardiff City Centre which reminded them of all the gigs they played in Sam’s Bar and buying their first guitars in Cranes Music. The point of this nostalgia trip being a neat segue into some proper old school tunes which include ‘Too Many Sandwiches’ and the emotionally charged ‘Same Size Feet’.
The sky eventually begins to darken as the show draws to a close and the ranging searchlights pick out the increasingly violent and incessant rain. We’ve got a few more songs to play. Do you want more songs or would you rather fuck off home out of the rain? Rhetorical of course but the crowd is going nowhere before tumultuous renditions of ‘Local Boy’ and ‘Dakota’ return the castle to long forgotten medieval scenes of debauched revelry. The Stereophonics are ready to stake their claim to the 90% again, and on this form you shouldn’t bet against them.