By: Adam Harrison –
Fans united Wednesday night at the Danforth Music Hall for one of Britain’s finest exports, Welsh post-britpop quartet Stereophonics, who are tremendously popular in the UK but have largely flown under the radar in North America, made a rare appearance in Toronto (five years since a festival appearance and nine years since their last featured appearance), touring for their eighth album, Graffiti on the Train. They packed a sold out crowd for a 105-minute set of classics and equally impressive new material.
It was a night of all crowd pleasers and sing-a-longs. Almost the entire set-list was a brilliantly formed highlight. The four boys from the small village of Cwmaman in Wales, came out fighting with “Catacomb”, one of their more turbulent tunes from Graffiti on the Train, before breaking into two well-known hits, “Local Boy in the Photograph” and “Superman”. The band then sped into three consecutive singles from the new record, the title track, “We Share the Same Sun” and “Indian Summer”, one of the breakout songs of the year.
If you weren’t already blown away at this point by the all-star set list, then you would have been by their first class performance, especially from lead singer and guitarist, Kelly Jones, who sounded exactly the same live as on their records. His unique, smoky voice echoed through the theatre as it sent a chill down the spine and tremble through the knees.
Not only were the band impressive, but the enthusiastic, involved audience as well, who seemed to know every word. Before the sing-a-long to “Maybe Tomorrow”, Jones shared that the band forgot that the 2004 film, Crash, featured the song until they saw it win the Academy Award for best picture. The fans swayed and belted the chorus when Jones queued them too. However it was the full participation during the chorus of “I Wouldn’t Believe Your Radio” that made the hair on the back of your neck stand up, with the 1,400 strong singing it in harmony “You can have it all if you like”.
The crowd welcomed new material, which is unusual for a band that has been around for the better part of two decades and carries a catalogue of hits. But Stereophonics are still working at an exciting level of consistency and Graffiti on the Train is one of the most profound albums of 2013.
During the encore, the crowd erupted at the first notes of “Just Looking”, and they couldn’t stay off their toes for “A Thousand Trees”, which boasts the clever chorus “Only takes one tree, to make a thousand matches. Only takes one match, to burn a thousand trees”. Finally, it wouldn’t be a Stereophonics show without “Dakota” which earned the Welshmen a well deserved and deafening ovation.
It’s a shame that Stereophonics never took off in North America, but hopefully next time it won’t be a five-year wait.