It was a rare siting last night at Toronto’s Danforth Music Hall as veteran Brit rockers Stereophonics packed the venue almost exactly five years after their last visit. The Welsh quartet are currently touring for their tenth studio album, Scream Above the Sounds, and celebrating twenty years as a band.
Warming up the stage were The Ramona Flowers from Bristol, England who graced us with 30-minutes of U2-esque tunes in promotion of their new album Strangers. Lead singer, Steve Bird, drew us in with his impressive vocal range that Bono himself would be a fan of, and served as a perfect complement for what was to follow.
Stereophonics took us on an immersive 135-minute journey spanning their entire discography, wasting little time with chit chat. They opened the 26-song set with “C’est la Vie” from 2015’s Keep the Village Aliveand it was full steam ahead from there. The Brit heavy audience were not shy of energy and participation in support of their “back home” heroes.
The band do little by way of gimmicks and showmanship, they simply let their music do the talking. Frontman and lead singer, Kelly Jones, has dimension comparable to Noel Gallagher. He can rip a good guitar solo when necessary and his raspy vocals scream rock n’ roll but also melt like butter through an emotional ballad. The band throttled us with momentum changes from crunchy alternative classics like “A Thousand Trees,” “Local Boy in the Photograph,” and “Bartender and the Thief” to spine-tingling softies like “Maybe Tomorrow,” “Graffiti on the Train,” and a hair-raising acoustic version of “100mph” that could make even the toughest of fellas tear up.
Stereophonics, who’s original name prior to 1997 was Tragic Love Company inspired by Tragically Hip, Mother Love Bone, and Bad Company, are long time lovers of our national treasure. As an ecstatic surprise to the local Canadians (and slightly confusing to the visiting Brits) the band invited Hip drummer, Johnny Fay, on stage to perform covers of “Blow at High Dough” and “Locked in the Trunk of a Car.”
Well after we got our money’s worth, Stereophonics returned for a five-song encore that concluded with their 2002 smash hit “Dakota,” which infused one final sing-a-long and jump about from the fans. It was a performance worthy of a stadium of fans but as TIME Magazine once dubbed Stereophonics, they are “The biggest UK band you’ve never heard of.” But regardless of recognition across the pond, the band proved even after twenty years, they still love to rock n’ roll and they most definitely still got the chops to do it!