dimanche 10 mars 2013

Stereophonics – Studio SFR (05/03/2013) ENGLISH

I wrote, on my “Graffiti On The Train” review how incredible things can sometimes happen to you… Two weeks ago, I was spending time on my FB when one of my friends showed up and announced me that Stereophonics would perform at the SFR Studio for a private audience. She also asked me if I’d be interested to go and it took me exactly 4 seconds to answer: one second for each letter of “YES” plus the exclamation mark. It crossed my mind that my presence could be required at the office (one of the downside of NOT working in the music domain) but at that very moment, I couldn’t care less… Hopefully, the schedule was so perfect that I was able to go. So here I am Paris!

After dropping our bags at the hotel, we go to the radio to pick the tickets that will allow us to enter the venue later that day. Before the show, we wander around Paris to admire the sight of the fantastic monuments and bridges of the town while speaking of our favorite artists… Walking so much whet the appetite so we decide to eat something before heading to SFR Studios where some fans were already waiting…

So… here we are inside the SFR Studio and my first impression is that we’ll definitely a nice moment there considering the size of the venue. It’s not every day that you can attend to a live show in a place that small. It turns out that we will be 120 lucky people at most to witness Stereophonics’ big return.

The stage : before show, soundcheck by guitar tech

 8:30PM, after a short introduction, the band arrives on stage. As usual, Adam Zindani and Richard Jones stand respectively on the left and right side of the stage, with Kelly Jones standing in the middle. On the left corner and behind Kelly stand their keyboardist (Tony Kirkham, I suspect) and Jamie Morrison, Stereophonics’ new drummer.

The band starts their performance with their latest single, “Indian Summer”. This version is something between the video version and the one available on YouTube as “Secret Sessions” where Kelly plays the song alone with his guitar. The song is obviously stripped from the string orchestra and looks tonight more like a ballad than the full of energy tune of the album but remains just as beautiful. It also allows us to appreciate even more the guitar lines (both acoustic and electric) out of it, probably my favorite sides of this song… Awesome one and a good way to start the evening.

The band then plays one of its hit songs, “Maybe Tomorrow”. This one has always had a calming vibe that could put any trouble mind at rest. Its guitar solo is always appreciated and fans let it know to the band by yelling a bit, bringing a smile to Kelly’s face as Adam’s fingers move on his guitar strings.

Time now for their new album’s title song: “Graffiti on the Train”. I wrote in my review on how this song overwhelmed me but I was far from imagining how things would go once I witnessed the band doing it live. I confirm this one is a pure jewel… Under white lighting, Kelly sings almost the entire song with his eyes closed, completely focused on the story of the two lovers. The electric guitar and piano part at the end are just perfect and I must admit that I was emotional for a split second when Mister Jones sang the line ‘The train sped down the line, it was the last train he would ride’. Right at that time and even more so now, I do realize how much picking this song as the album title was the best thing to do. 

Time for some “oldies” with “Just Looking” from their 1999 album “Performance & Cocktails” before coming back to their new album with “Been Caught Cheating”. Most of my friends who have listened to the album consider this one as their favorite: let’s face it, the blues suits Stereophonics. As Richard’s moving his body to the rhythm of the song, we can all enjoy the moment and I realize that, even though Kelly Jones had written this song with Amy Winehouse in mind, his voice is just so fine on this track. Adam’s solo is once again just perfect and brings additional depth to the song. I liked “Been Caught Cheating” when I listened to Graffiti for the first time and it wasn’t though my #1 song of the album but… after tonight, I can actually now picture this one as a possible future single.

© Sound of Violence (Photographer : Mauro Melis)

 Kelly now explains to the audience that the song they’re about to play is the first single they ever released, back in 1997: “Local Boy in the Photograph”. I then notice the unique look of Adam’s guitar: one white six-string that could probably be able to tell us a lot of stories as it seems to have a few years age of time. The color is missing on its left top side and you can see the wood. Aaah boys and their guitar.
I also notice at that point that Kelly has played every song with an acoustic guitar since the beginning of the show, leaving electric parts to Adam. It appears that it will be the case for the whole set.
Remember how I wrote that Kelly Jones never fails when it comes to sing a song? I’ll never write a line like that again… it’s too much bad luck ‘cos… he did it that night! I’m not sure many people noticed it though and I wasn’t sure myself until seeing Adam and Richard’s large smiles. It lasted for a split second but when I saw these two smiling, I knew something went a bit wrong. To me, that’s one of the charming aspects of live shows: at least, you know that what you see (and hear) is all “real”. Anyway, this anecdote also showed up how much these guys get along quite well: it sometimes takes just a look between them to understand each other or sending a silent message that can only be decrypted by an inner-member of the Stereophonic team. I loved that moment so much full of complete complicity!

© Sound of Violence (Photographer : Mauro Melis)
As Kelly mentions it, they’re about to perform “No-one’s Perfect”, tonight’s last song taken from “Graffiti on the Train”. A moment of quietness for that beautiful song…
Well actually, now that I think of it and looking back on it a few days after the show, that’s how I’d described the audience that night : a bit too quiet. All right, there weren’t songs like “The Bartender and the Thief”, “Madame Helga”, “Trouble” or “Catacomb” in the set list and maybe it influenced the audience in some ways but… come on, people! I was on the back and sang like crazy when they performed “Just Looking” and “Local Boy…”. All right, I was at the back but it’s either I’m deaf and didn’t hear the crowd singing or the boys are able to literally hypnotize a full audience… and I’m quite sure it was none of these two things that happened that night. Or maybe I imagined it. Or maybe I should have changed my habit and try the front stage. I’ll never know, I guess…

© Sound of Violence (Photographer : Mauro Melis)
Kelly introduces the next song by telling us that he was sleeping and having a dream. In his dream, Ringo Starr showed up near his home and… it inspired him the song. I’m still wondering in which ways though: maybe the Beatles’ drummer wanted to trade Kelly’s flying giraffe for the octopus that was once in his garden? Some songs’ inside secrets are hard to get… Anyway “I Wouldn’t Believe Your Radio” is still one of those uplifting songs that can easily bring a smile on any face. 

To start “Pick A Part That’s New”, Kelly starts counting from one to four, with the help of the audience, before realizing he’s in France: therefore, he starts counting again… in French this time. At the end of the song, a girl shouted that it was her birthday to which Kelly answered that they also had a birthday boy amongst them. I first thought he was talking about one of the roadies that were standing on the left side of the room (or maybe he was…) but realized – two days too late – that he was mentioning… Adam. The guitarist and background vocalist of Stereophonics was actually celebrating his 41st birthday that day. No cake on stage but a great laugh when Kelly mentioned that he was… 26 year-old now.

Birthday Boy...
© Sound of Violence (Photographer : Mauro Melis)
The band then plays “Have A Nice Day”, with both Adam and Richard on the background vocals. Another fine moment provided by that thrilling song that makes me sway from left to right and vice versa. Stereophonics end their private show with another one of their hits, “Dakota”, before leaving the stage…

Then that was it.

Well… not quite actually. REALLY not quite.

Just like I did with the Imagine Dragons guys, I left home with a copy of the band’s album review I wrote just in case they’d stay a while after the show. They didn’t but I approached one of their roadies, a lovely guy, and explained to him what was in the envelope I had in my hand. He kindly offered to give it to them and here’s my chance to thank him for his kindness. 

Stereophonics played for around an hour and once outside the SFR studio, my friend and I wondered what we could do at such an early hour. The evening was quite warm for a winter night so we decided to enjoy that nice weather and stick around a bit in the open air and make the most of such a beautiful evening. Being both music addicts, we started talking about various artists coming from many different musical horizons: Joseph Arthur, Fistful of Mercy, Fountains of Wayne, Eddie Vedder, Dave Grohl, Nikki Sixx, The Beatles, Tom Petty… Before we realized it, more than one hour had passed and it was 11P.M. That’s when the Stereophonics men decided to show up…

They were nice enough to take a picture with me and also signed my “Keep Calm and Carry On” Deluxe Edition. Of all my CDs, I picked this one for a reason: it was the first album released after Adam Zindani was officially made a member of Stereophonics… and I had not received my pre-ordered Limited Edition of “Graffiti on the Train” yet.
Life’s full of surprises: I guess Adam probably never imagined for a split second he’d be a part of the Stereophonics history when he and his band Casino toured with them as the Welsh band’s opening act back in 2005. I’m glad he did: through the whole set, Kelly played acoustic guitar and let Adam play electric guitar. Although I was a bit sad that Kelly’s famous Gibson SG Cherry guitar didn’t show up, I think Adam’s guitar skills are awesome and the more I was watching him play, the more it felt like he was right where he was supposed to be.

Speaking of his band Casino, I highly recommend the band to you: the Birmingham-based band is a musical blast! I listened to their “The Spider Simpson Incident” album Wednesday and… have literally not been able to stop listening to it since then! I am also going completely crazy ‘cos I can’t find any physical copy of the CD and have to keep playing the album through YouTube. How am I supposed financially supporting a band I like when I can’t buy their album? I know… this is crazy. No. I’m crazy I think. Anyway… let me introduce you to “Runaway”, their latest single, available on iTunes.


Here’s another video of Casino and… watch closely Adam’s guitar: it’s the one he had in his hands tonight.


I also had funny moments with Richard, who apparently thought I had a “cool jacket” (thank you Sir!) and who’s one of the coolest and funniest musician I’ve ever met. One of those moments is immortalized in a 7 seconds movie shot by my camera: here’s what happens when you forget to change your camera settings… I reaaaaally must thank the Welsh guy for his kindness and… patience. ;)

"Cool jacket" in front in REALLY less cool kitchen wallpaper :D
Remember what I wrote on Jamie Morrison on my review… before updating it when I found out he wasn’t the drummer involved in “Graffiti on the Train”? Well… from where I was standing, I didn’t have a good view on the drummer and had only my ears as witness of his drumming. But… I wasn’t wrong when I wrote “from what I’ve heard while listening to ‘Graffiti On The Train’, I’m not worried, the drummer perfectly fits into Stereophonics’ world”. Just replace the ‘listening to Graffiti on the Train’ part by ‘attending tonight’s show’ and you’ll have my opinion on Stereophonics’ new drummer.

There are more stories to tell about our crazy Stereophonics adventure, including having a famous French actor right beside us, jumping in the subway or missing the train and wondering if I may finally go back to Belgium and be back at work the next morning or even a story including chickenpox but… let’s keep it simple. Let me just tell you this: the underbelly of Paris is now all different to me… Thanks you guys for that show, “the” moment and your time. I had a blast!

And I am – with some of my friends – waiting for you. In Belgium this time.

PS – I’d like to thank again Sabrina, who made all this possible, as well as the Morning Rock team of Oüi FM.

I’d also like to thank the Sound of Violence website and photographer Mauro Melis for kindly allowing me to use some of their pictures. 

Setlist :
-         Indian Summer
-         Maybe Tomorrow
-         Graffiti Train
-         Just Looking
-         Been Caught Cheating
-         Local boy In The Photograph
-         No One’s Perfect
-         I Wouldn’t Believe Your Radio
-         Pick a Part That's New
-         Have A Nice Day
-         Dakota


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