Welsh rockers Stereophonics brought their UK arena tour into Liverpool last night, making a welcome return.

Fans crammed into the city’s Echo Arena to listen to a tight and lively two-hour set of favourite songs from the band’s vast back catalogue.

The arrival followed the recent release of A Decade In The Sun: The Best Of Stereophonics, a compilation album of their greatest hits – all of which were performed to rapturous appreciation from a legion of stalwart and younger admirers.

The 10,000 plus crowd were reminded of the Stereophonics’ success in the UK charts, via a master of ceremonies type of introduction found usually in the sport of boxing, before a large red curtain dropped to reveal the four leather jacket and jean wearing members, who started procedures with ‘Vegas Two Times’, from third studio album Just Enough Education To Perform.

Stereophonics’ decade of achievement incredibly includes over 30 UK top twenty hits and 9 million album sales worldwide.

“It’s good to be back,” lead singer Kelly Jones shouted into the microphone, which almost hid his small 5ft 5in frame. The man from Cwmaman, South Wales, then reflected: “The last time we were in Liverpool must have been at the old L2 or Royal Court.”

Indeed, it has been a long wait for Liverpool. The only time I got to see them in the city was when John Peel introduced them at LFC’s Anfield stadium eleven years ago, for a special one off concert in support of justice for 96 football supporters who lost their lives at Hillsborough stadium. Stereophonics, barely known, fitted into the big shows with ease even back then.

Arguably, their height of fame came during the release of second album Performance and Cocktails ten years ago following brilliant debut, Word Gets Around, in 1997.

And this evening’s highlights certainly included ‘Just Looking’, ‘Pick a Part That’s New’, ‘I Wouldn’t Believe Your Radio’, ‘A Thousand Trees’, ‘More Life in a Tramp’s Vest’, and ‘Last of the Big Time Drinkers’ – songs from both of those albums.

However, live performances of tracks written for 2001’s JEETP still hold there own. ‘Have A Nice Day’ and ‘Mr Writer’ in particular. Kelly Jones informed everyone in attendance he’d written the latter in about ten minutes, but it “took about ten years to explain.” This controversial tune – perceived by a large contingent of the media as an attack on them – didn’t do the publicity wagon much good at the time, yet the band still perform it with passion.

This period for the band resulted with the sacking of original drummer Stuart Cable soon after the release of their forth studio album, You Gotta Go There to Come Back.

Stereophonics’ current line up includes Argentinean, Javier Andres Weyler on drums, and newest member Adam Zindani on backing vocals and guitar. Zindani combines his time working with the two long-lasting members, Kelly Jones and Richard Jones, with work he does with his own band, SpiderSimpson.

In Liverpool, the rock outfit were joined on stage by a three-piece string section to slow down the fast pace performance.

Through effective use of twenty light panels, alternating in colour, the tone became intimate as the huge hit ‘Handbags And Gladrags’, from JEETP, was delivered.

After picking up the mood with a foot stomping rendition of first ever single ‘Local Boy in the Photograph’, soon the foursome were exiting stage right. Only to quickly return for a five-song encore, with Kelly and just an acoustic guitar holding court to begin with.

There is no denying the small Welsh singer-songwriter can keep the attention of over 10,000 people on his own, beginning with new single ‘You’re My Star’ before the spine tingling ‘Word Gets Around’, which kept his audience captivated.

Richard Jones, Weyler and Zindani rejoined the lead man for ‘The Bartender and the Thief’ and original signature tune ‘Traffic’, before the evening ended with the upbeat and punky ‘Dakota’, from fifth studio album Language. Sex. Violence. Other?

Stereophonics have followed up on last year’s sixth studio album, Pull The Pin, with a timely release of a ‘Best Of’ album, which, for me, confirms their status as British rock royalty.

An impressive support slot was provided by Manchester foursome The Courteeners, who made a few more scouse friends after a superb performance.

And the love was mutual, as the lively lead man Liam Fray proclaimed the Liverpool crowd had been his favourite on the tour to date. They too had come a long way since an appearance at the city’s Magnet venue in front of “just six people,” Fray admitted.

Next stop for both acts is Manchester’s M.E.N.

Lead singer of Stereophonics, Kelly Jones

Lead singer of Stereophonics, Kelly Jones

The Courteeners provided support at Echo Arena, Liverpool

The Courteeners provided support at Echo Arena, Liverpool

Stereophonics at Echo Arena, Liverpool

Stereophonics at Echo Arena, Liverpool

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