Stereophonics - Derby Assembly Rooms - 19.3.01

When the first song in tonight's set is the journalist bating "Mr Writer" you can't help but think "Kelly, Just give it a fucking rest!!!!". I mean does he really think he's that special that he's above criticism. OK, the press have given him a hard time over Welsh Nationalism but really it should be sorted out personally with a metal bar down some dark alleyway. Lyrical subject matter aside "Mr Writer" really is a Stereophonics classic; more a shift in production style than a shift in songwriting but an important move all the same.

You could see this option to play new songs as brave move but I look around and wonder. If there's one good point with Napster its that they'll never be those awkward bits where the room falls silent for the token new song. I mean tonight you look around and the audience mouth each and every new song back to Kelly as if they're one of the oldies. And that's what tonight is all about - the songs. Its as simple as that and is what the band have always stood for much to the amusement of the press. Strange criticizing a band for being about music but there you go, a fine example of what happens to you when you get into that insular London music scene.

Predictably its the singles like "Hurry Up and Wait" and "The Bartender and The Thief" that receive ecstatic reactions but to me the second album always seemed like they'd lost direction a little. If anything J.E.E.P seems like the album they wanted to make last time. Acoustic guitars are still prominent but texturally it all seems a little more dense. Each title almost like a little novel in itself with the likes of "Stepping On My Own Size 9s" and "Vegas...." sticking out as particular highpoints.

You can criticize the band all you want but tonight I saw a band who were confident just being themselves. Its just the Stereophonics and you can take it or leave it but you can't deny that they are one of the last honest rock & roll bands around. The Manics may have visited Cuba on their comeback trail but the 'Phonics touched the hearts of the average man. There's not many bands who can do that with any sincerity.

Alex McCann