Some 20 years ago the Stereophonics played the ULU. Two decades later they were back celebrating the anniversary of their debut album, released this very day in 1997. Word Gets Around being 20 years old is pretty scary. So much has happened to the band since its release. The success they have had has been one of consistency with huge highs (2002 at Slane Castle) and occasional gut wrench lows (the untimely death of former drummer Stuart Cable). Albums have been regularly released (almost like clockwork every 2 years) but above all else they have always been a top live band with a singer who has one hell of a rock and roll voice.
The first 90 minutes here are dedicated to their debut. They stay clear of playing it in order (something which often doesn't work live) and instead mix up the running order and include b sides from that period. It really is a fascinating look back at a moment in time. It helps that it is such a great album. There aren't many opening tracks as good as Thousand Trees. That along with Local Boy in a Photograph, Tramps Vest and Traffic show that the album really is full of songs that have stood the test of time and indeed all are magnificent here.
A rock n roll medley shows us their influences (AC/DC, ZZ Top, Sabbath, Springsteen and Zeppelin) and is a nice little interlude but this really is a trip down memory lane. Kelly tells stories of days gone by (I'll be honest I didn't always understand him...a combination of my hearing and his strong Welsh accent) and old footage is played on the screen behind on which both he and Richard Jones look like extras from a young Spinal Tap movie. The images of Cable are a poignant reminder that life isn't always easy. A big personality, now sadly gone 7 years.
As Kelly sings last song of the album, and closing song of the first set, Billy Davey's Daughter, the crowd is allowed to draw breath. The venue is sweltering and even Kelly is finding it hot and sweaty...especially in his ears it seems (his in ear monitors keep falling out). His hair still never moves though and I'm pretty sure he looks the same as he has for much of the band's 20 years. Bastard. I'm the same age as him and certainly don't look like the 23 year old me.
After a quick breather they come back on for a 50 minute run through of some of their biggest hits. C'est La Vie (such a great rock song) makes the already warm crowd decidedly more hot and sweaty. The venue is a good one but air conditioning would have been nice. Previously known as the ULU, and now the more boringly titled Student Central, it houses just a few hundred but the sound is great and it is hard not to get a decent view. This despite the budding Torvill and Dean next to us who danced around barging into people (us). Their flailing arms hit all around while somehow managing to take endless selfies and snog the face off each other. Brilliantly they had to leave when the moshing kicked in for closing tracks Just Looking, Bartender and Dakota. Such a great way to finish off an already barnstorming set.
We did get to hear one new song, All in One Night, which bodes well for the new album but this really is a celebration of 1997 and a young band starting out. We take the Stereophonics for granted but on this evidence they aren't going anywhere anytime soon.
See you back here for the 30th anniversary.
Ticket: August 25th 2017
Ticket Price: £35.00