Stereophonics prove their enduring importance at Edinburgh's Usher Hall
On 4 December 2021, the Welsh rock legends marked twenty years of Just Enough Education To Perform in Scotland's capital.
Kelly Jones and the guys will never win any of the end of year cool awards. They’ll never be regarded in the same breath as the likes of Oasis who they came after or The Arctic Monkeys who they preceded. You can imagine programmers and producers confused as to where to play their music.
Yet they’re immensely popular. They’re about to release their twelfth album which will probably go to number one and they could easily sell out massive arenas in minutes. Which is why it was good to see them in a venue like Edinburgh's Usher Hall.
They’d stopped off as part of their Just Enough Education To Perform 20th Anniversary show. Yes, that album. The one that sounded very American and reflective. The one that Wayne Rooney got tattooed on his arm.
A standard with these types of tours they played the LP in its entirety. And some of their most famous songs are on it.
When they get to ‘Mr Writer’ three numbers into the set, the capacity crowd find their voice. It’s an interesting tune, about a critic that they felt was too harsh on them and probably the point where the music press turned their backs on the group. Two decades later with an established career, you can’t help but think it was Stereophonics who got the last laugh.
‘Step On My Old Sizes Nines’ and ‘Have A Nice Day’ continued the singalong. Then ‘Handbags and Gladrags’ which Jones explained was such an unexpected success the record label repackaged Just Enough Education To Perform to include it. It allows him to push his vocal range to the maximum.
Not only has Jones got a fantastic voice but he’s also got great banter in between the songs with anecdotes crying out for one of those VH1 Storytelling shows. He fondly recalled Edinburgh was the first place the band had played in outside of Cardiff and an amusing story about ordering toast and Weetabix in a hotel that morning. He also likens his Wales to Scotland as both have a massive drinking culture which resulted in plastic pint pots being thrust into the air.
He’s quietly spoken, almost shy, which is refreshing. He’s skillfully backed by a band of musicians who know full well what they’re doing. Richard Jones gave Peter Hook a run for his money with his bass playing theatrics and Adam Zindani delighted the audience with his guitar skills.
Perched about them all was drummer Jamie Morrison who stole the show when he delivered a masterful performance. With a dozen of albums to pick material from, they’ve got enough of a back catalogue to have multiple encores. Instead they settled on two.
The first one was a rockier, like U2 at their best. ‘Geronimo’ and ‘C’est la vie’ got the crowd jumping while 'Mr and Mrs Smith' ended with Morrison frantic drumming and Jones joking that the drummer needed a rest.
Then it was the finale. ‘Hurry Up and Wait’, ‘Traffic’ and ‘Maybe Tomorrow’ took the pace of proceedings back a bit before they unleashed 'Dakota'. The bands biggest single and their only one to date to make it to the top of the charts, it doesn’t feel over 15 years old.
It’s a juggernaut of an anthem about love and hope that we need, especially nowadays. And maybe, more than the cool lists and the acceptance, we need Stereophonics just as much.