Venue: Fort Canning Park, Singapore
Date: 14th August 2013
Promoter: LAMC Productions
Review by: Andy T.
Special Thanks: Andre, and the LAMC Productions team
I can’t quite believe it has been five long and eventful years since I saw Stereophonics live in 2008. Unfortunately, I missed their 2010 concert and when I heard that they were returning in July of this year, I was a little sad that I could not make it again. They kindly postponed the date to August however, and I was over the moon that I could finally see them once more after such a long time. Was wondering if something like the infamous ‘slipper hitting Kelly Jones’ incident in the 2010 concert would happen at this show.
Personally, I truly loved their first four albums. Their later four albums from ‘Dakota’ to their latest, ‘Graffiti on the Train’ were all good albums but there seemed to be some spark lacking in them. It was hard to fall in love with these records as my enthusiasm towards their music has been slowly but surely waning with each one. My main issue was that starting with ‘Language. Sex. Violence. Other?’, Kelly Jones’s voice was progressively more and more processed. Worse, his singing started sounding lazy. This could have been attributed to the departure of their original drummer, Stuart Cable (who sadly passed away in 2010).
Their music production started changing. Their melodies and lyrics were still as strong as ever but it is often drowned out by the loud excessive production, and diminishing of Kelly’s voice. Nowhere is this more evident than in the deluxe edition of ‘Graffiti On The Train’, where some of the album songs are performed stripped down to just Kelly’s voice and a guitar. That is the Stereophonics I fell in love with. They may be a rock band but they previously had never let guitar riffs and drums progressions take away from the beauty of the melody and singing. Of course, occasionally they can pull out some of that old magic such as the sublime ‘Indian Summer’ from their latest album. I was hoping this concert would restore some of my adoration for their music.
Surprisingly, the venue was almost empty when I arrived at around 7pm; I could still stand at the front row. It was such a big difference compared to 2008 where at least a hundred people were queuing up by 6pm to get into the venue. Thankfully, the crowd started trickling in after 8pm, and as always, there were a large proportion of foreigners in the crowd to support the Welsh band.
French singer/songwriter The Fairchilds opened the show at around 8pm with an acoustic set of five songs, backed by an audacious Singaporean string quartet. His brand of simple pop songs were nice and catchy, but with a sort of bland aftertaste. Tellingly, the song that got everyone singing along was a remake of Green Day’s ‘Basket Case’.
Stereophonics finally came on at 8.50pm (surprisingly early maybe due to it being a Wednesday) and immediately launched into ‘Catacomb’, a track off their latest album ‘Graffiti On The Train’. As always, they let their music do the talking with Kelly Jones addressing the crowd only after the second song and kept talking to a minimal. Back in 2008, Kelly Jones barely broke out in sweat despite being dressed in a leather jacket, which he never took off throughout the whole concert. Similarly, he was dressed tonight in a black long sleeved shirt and leather vest, which he kept on throughout the entire hour and 45 minute long concert. They sang a total of six songs from their latest album and hearing these songs live was definitely better than it does on CD. It gave some of the songs more perspective and they also came alive during the concert with Kelly’s truly magnificent vocals.
To me, Stereophonics is Kelly Jones and Kelly Jones is Stereophonics. That distinctive, amazingly gravelly voice of his is still very much intact. It can still soar to beautiful places and make your heart ache. His voice was in top form that night. Only during the first encore song of ‘Billy Davey’s Daughter’ did it crack a bit but that actually made the emotions behind the song even more authentic and heartfelt. The band performed perfectly (with new member Jamie Morrison gelling along well with the band) despite some sound glitches after the seventh song.
They sang a whopping total of 22 songs with an encore of three songs. The first few chords of ‘Have A Nice Day’ still gets me every time as this was the song that made me fell in love with their music. I remember the very day where I caught the acoustic video of the song on TV in Australia back in 2002 and how mesmerized I was by his voice. As expected, the songs that resonated most with the crowd were the older songs such as an epic version of ‘Mr. Writer’ and the always-popular ‘Maybe Tomorrow’. That was not to say the new songs weren’t good; ‘Indian Summer’ is practically meant to be sung at a concert with its insanely catchy chorus. Surprisingly, they did not sing any songs from their sixth album ‘Pull The Pin’, and only one song, ‘Could You Be the One’, from their seventh album ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’.
The concert reached its high point with a superbly energetic performance of ‘The Bartender & the Thief’ with everyone screaming and singing along. They left the stage after that and returned dutifully for a three song strong encore starting with an acoustic version of ‘Billy Davey’s Daughter’ before the whole band came out for ‘A Thousand Trees’ and the grand finale of ‘Dakota’. This was surely the highlight of the concert. The crowd went crazy and everyone was jumping and singing at the top of their lungs. Wisely, they changed up the ending a bit to keep it interesting. I never liked the song in its original form on the album but it always sounds amazing live. It was an absolutely perfect way to end a wonderful evening.
All in all, they are definitely such an underrated band; their musicality and performance prowess should have made them as big as other British bands such as Coldplay. They can be assured I will definitely stay a fan for life, as this concert has truly redeemed them in my eyes.
2. Local Boy in Photograph
4. Graffiti on the Train
5. We Share the Same Sun
6. Indian Summer
7. I Wouldn’t Believe Your Radio
8. Pick a Part That’s New
9. Mr. Writer
10. Could You Be the One?
11. Roll the Dice
12. Violins and Tambourines
13. Been Caught Cheating
14. Maybe Tomorrow
15. Just Looking
16. More Life in a Tramps Vest
17. Hurry Up & Wait
18. Have a Nice Day
19. The Bartender & the Thief
20. Billy Davey’s Daughter
21. A Thousand Trees