Stereophonics - Manchester MEN Arena - 16.9.05

Whether it was the impact of Stuart Cable leaving the band or not will never be answered, but the Stereophonics have gone back to their roots as a damn fine British Rock band after meandering for the wilderness for several years. Looking back over the past few years it seems ridiculous to think that the band that brought us the likes of "More Life In A Tramps Vest" and "Local Boy In The Photograph" would spend the best part of 3 albums loosely strumming away on an acoustic, releasing cover versions of Rod Stewart songs and being the target du jour of virtually everyone in the music industry.

In these times where James Blunt can top the charts for a zillion weeks and how the lack of cover versions on Jamie Cullums difficult second album is seen as a breakthrough, it was a real risk for the band to drop the acoustic and deliver a rock album that many of the 30 something Stereophonic's fans could have rejected, but the risk has paid off and the band are a much better live proposition than ever before. The spirit of the live shows are now the same as those early sweaty gigs at venues such as Manchester Roadhouse where frenzied moshers managed to mosh while analysing Kelly's lyrics of small town life.

"Language Sex Violence Other" as an album is that logically fits as the true follow up to "Word Gets Around", with the only real difference being that Kelly Jones has dropped the unwritten rule of no guitar solos. Amongst the chunky hard hitting riffs Jones manages to ring out lengthy guitar solos in the middle of each song, which prove that more often than not he's restraining his playing to simply let the song shine through. "Peddle Pusher" with it's Led Zep leanings sits perfectly next to the likes "A Thousand Trees" and "Bartender And The Thief". Like the low-key life show earlier in the year tracks of noticeably absent from "Just Enough Education To Perform", but in truth there's not one song missing from the set that we'd have liked to have heard. "Handbags And Gladrags" would have stuck out like a sore thumb and would have been a desperate moment and it's too their credit that they left it out all together.

Ending on a euphoric version of "Dakota" the band manage to take on the Arena where many bands have failed previously. If the Stereophonics can release another album that takes the sound of rock to another level rather than reaching back for the old acoustic the band will become one of the essential live bands to watch in the UK

Words: Alex McCann
Photos: Shirlaine Forrest

Click here to leave your Stereophonics comments on the Message Board
(NB: The message board opens in a new window so please disable your pop-up blocker to view)