Stereophonics  live  plus support Belsonic .2016 Jun30


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Stereophonics live plus support Belsonic .2016



Round one of Belfast festival of sorts Belsonic came to a close tonight with what could be called ‘the indie rock one’: Welsh rockers Stereophonics, with support from indie darlings The Vaccines.

Under a faintly ominous looking sky The Vaccines stride onstage in distinctly understated fashion, before reaching for their instruments and rocking the smallish crowd’s socks off. Opening with ‘Handsome’, they’re clearly starting as they intend to go on, sending out sardonic and witty hit after hit, such as ‘Melody Calling’, ‘Wetsuit’ and ‘If You Wanna’.

Although they are most assuredly an indie rock band, they reach into other genres to create their sound, such as glam rock (the slinky ‘Dream Lover’), Seventies era disco (the pretty ‘Minimal Affection’) and even pop (‘I Always Knew’). They happily take the time to delve into their back catalogue, playing what frontman Justin Young calls “a golden oldie” in ‘Post Break Up Sex’, before flashing their rock credentials with a flourish with the short, ballsy ‘Wreckin’ Bar (Ra Ra Ra)’ and a jaunty as hell ‘Bad Mood’, which sounds exactly like a souped up version of ‘Baby Did a Bad Bad Thing’ – and yes, that’s most definitely a good thing.

With the heavens opening and the previously light rain turning serious, they finish with a vigorous ‘Nørgaard’ and leave with a smile and a wave, quipping “It’s only rain!” to a rather bedraggled but buoyant crowd.

By the time Stereophonics hit the stage forty five minutes later the crowd has quadrupled in size and – rain be damned – they’re here for a good time. Vocalist Kelly Jones is a warm host, offering up nearly every song title before unleashing that distinctive, swoonsome ‘whiskey and honey’ voice of his.

They really are one of those bands that you almost feel like you know very little about until you see them live and realise just how many hits – great hits – they actually have. They cover their career admirably tonight with a truly ‘for the fans’ setlist, treating the crowd to favourites such as opener ‘C’est La Vie’, a raspy ‘Maybe Tomorrow’ and the lissome ‘Just Looking’, all of which prompt huge hug-filled singalongs without even being coaxed into it.

It has to be said that a lot of their material is rather midpaced: ‘radio rock’ one might call it. There’s little in the way of serious rocking out bar a muscular ‘Superman’, the sexy riffing of ‘Vegas Two Times’, and of course ‘Bartender and the Thief’. Tonight is more of a ‘lighters in the air oh my god I love this song tear in your eye’ gig than a hard rocking headbang-fest. The crowd certainly don’t seem to mind, singing along with gusto and delight to every track as soon as it’s announced.

The whole set is infused with emotion, be it yearning, sadness, nostalgia or simple happiness, and every song is as smooth as cappuccino and flawlessly executed; a tricky combination to pull of but they manage it to perfection. In between songs Jones is humble and affable, displaying touches of dry humour here and there (“We’ve got a couple of songs left”, he announces towards the end. “We could go off and come back for an encore but there’s no point, is there – you’re all already here!”).

They round off with a raucous ‘Bartender and the Thief’, which sends the audience into paroxysms of delight, and the majestically soaring ‘Dakota’, prefaced by Jones effusively thanking the Belfast crowd for coming down, withstanding the pesky rain and “for following us for twenty years”. It’s the perfect way to finish their set, the night, and indeed Belsonic Part One, which has seen dance, pop, indie and rock join together to make the move to Titanic Belfast a resounding success.

Review by Melanie Black


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