THIS was a solo show, except that it wasn’t a solo show. First up, Dwight A Baker and Patricia Lynn’s country-noir duo The Wind And The Waves, from Austin Texas, thoroughly justified Kelly Jones’s invitation to tour with him: the best support act in ages at the Barbican, with song titles as sharp as This House Is A Hotel (for grumpy teens) and a queue at the merch-stall afterwards.
In Jones’s words, “this tour is about overcoming things and moving on from obstacles and building strength from that”. This sentiment is reflected in Don’t Let The Devil Take Another Day, the title of the upcoming Stereophonics album, out in October, and trailered here by a band who “learned the songs in five minutes”.
The title number and This Life Ain’t Easy But It’s The One We All Get conveyed Jones’s apprehensive yet defiantly hopeful tone on a night when he revealed as much in his storytelling from his back story, as darkly humorous, poignant and South Welsh-rooted as Dylan Thomas’s writings.
He opened by talking about once-a-week, Sunday childhood bath time, third in line behind his brothers for the increasingly dirty water, as he set about song writing from the age of eight when they removed their improvised “ghetto blaster” each week.
He now had 160 songs, from 12 or 13 records, to pick from, songs familiar and rarely performed from Stereophonics 22 years and his 2007 solo work, Only The Names Have Been Changed.
The names this particular evening were Jones on acoustic and electric guitars, stand-up and grand piano; Gavin Fitzjohn on piano, guitar and exquisite trumpet and Fiona Brice on violin and piano, constantly swapping places and roles, joined by drummer Cherisse Osei, hair blowing wildly behind her as if in a wind tunnel, and even she switched from one drum kit to another.
Rather than being restless or breathless, there was an arc and flow to the night, songs benefiting from new arrangements, such as Jones and Fitzjohn perched on high stools for a ukulele account of Rewind.
The stories were heartfelt, one taking in early days with Stereophonics’ Stuart Cable, his mother by the name of Mabel Cable and Keith Richards’ shepherd’s pie dressing-room rules, before his abiding grief at Cable dying too young poured into Before Anyone Knew Our Name. “I miss you man,” he sang, the pain still raw in that soulful voice, the best from Wales since his fellow Jones, Tom.
Kelly recalled his callow football days, playing up front of course, but this was the cue for debut single Local Boy In The Photograph, his tribute to the team’s right back who threw himself under a train.
Not only the tour, but so many of Jones’s everyman songs are about “overcoming things and moving on from obstacles”. Even his first choice of cover, Kris Kristofferson’s Help Me Make It Through The Night, a song his father sang in his working men’s club gigs, now carried that weight.
The second, Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around, had Jones and Patricia Lynn mirroring Tom Petty and Stevie Nicks to the max.
A medical emergency in the audience brought the show to a halt for 15 minutes, handled suitably respectfully by band and audience alike, and the usual 11pm curfew was subsequently waived, enabling a hits-heavy singalong encore of Maybe Tomorrow, Traffic and Dakota.
More frontmen of Jones’s standing should do shows like this: seeing him and his songs in a new light.
Review copyright of The Press, York