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Stereophonics Play Nice in Both Ears

Stereophonics / JJ72
The Metro
Chicago, IL
Jan. 29, 2002

Review by Scott Stegenga
Photos by Barry Brecheisen

It's interesting to consider that some bands who have a lot of trouble selling out intimate venues like The Metro have no trouble selling out football stadiums, or even castles, but then they'd have to go back to their homes across the Atlantic to do so. Stereophonics are without a doubt one of the hardest working bands from the UK who are trying real hard to attain superstar status on both sides of the ocean. Their latest CD Just Enough Education to Perform could easily be compared to Rod Stewart's Atlantic Crossing with it's blend of American storyteller blues-rock peppered with a touch of the homespun Brit-pop vibe.
Stereophonics The Welsh trio came to Chicago's Metro to convince we fellow Americans that they can rock like none other. And rock they did. Set amid a huge drum kit, an oriental rug and several amps, Stereophonics came out tonight as a five-piece unit driving their 'full heads on rock' down our American road. Opening with the haunting "Mr. Writer," singer Kelly Jones, clad in sunglasses, shortly cropped hair, black t-shirt and tattered jeans and a blond Les Paul, led the band with his many stories that paid tribute to the raw and pure rock ideal. Song after song, the band jammed continuously with great pleasure and ease as they performed songs from all their albums, plus a few cover tunes. Whether it was an acoustic sit-down song, or a full-on rock jam, the Phonics demonstrated how a rock show should be done. Songs like "The Bartender and the Thief," "Local Boy in the Photograph" and "Watch Them Fly Sundays" look good on paper, but sounded even better live, and drummer Stuart Cable has to be the human likeness of Animal from The Muppets with his huge head and wild curly hair sprouting everywhere and constant wild-man drum antics. This evening, Stereophonics easily proved to Chicago that there was no other band quite like them and especially none more phonic.
Irish trio JJ72 opened the evening with their passionate post-Nirvana noise consisting of singer Mark Greaney's elfin-like vocals, Fergal Matthews' tribal drumming, and the swank bass playing of Hilary Woods. Playing songs from their self-titled debut album and a few new ones, JJ72's unique and original style was laid out bare for all the audience. It's a tough job being a hard power trio opening for an audience of mellower listeners, but the vast 11-song set was received with modest interest and applause. Recent songs like "Oxygen," "Surrender" and new ones like "Formulae" and "I Saw a Prayer" caught the audience's attention one way or another and ended with the emotional roller coaster"Bumble Bee." Lets hope they return again for a 'full-on rock crowd' sometime in the future. I'm sure with more crowd enthusiasm they'll have lots more to give.


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