THERE is something truly poignant in seeing Stereophonics play Have a Nice Day live in front of a sell-out crowd in the United States. Particularly when it is in front of around 600 people at a bijou club called the Paradise in Boston.
This is a true rock venue, not unlike the clubs the Stereos would have first played when they were just starting out in south Wales. The difference now is that they are a huge rock brand, capable of selling out large stadiums like the Millennium and headlining festivals.
The Paradise, in comparison, is small fry. But the buzz you get from seeing Kelly Jones and the boys perform in front of such enthusiastic fans makes up for all that. Everyone who saw them wanted to be there, and the band didn't disappoint.
Not long ago I saw them at the CIA in Cardiff and the result was frankly underwhelming. There were too many people there just for the occasion, the queues for a beer stretched for miles, and the group's performance mirrored their surroundings. People didn't want to dance, or mosh, even to their most popular tracks. They were just intent on holding their mobile phones overhead to snatch pictures so they could boast to their mates: I was there.
Boston was the first leg of the band's north American tour and the reason they choice such a compact venue is not precise. Their album Pull the Pin, which has been out for some time in the UK, launches on September 9 over here so they obviously wanted to give it a plug. And maybe they felt that playing in a town with so many colleges, universities and budding musos was the way to do it.
Quite simply, it worked. They played all their old favourites mixed in with a number of new tracks, none better than the single It Means Nothing, and the crowd simply lapped it up, myself included. It was a brilliant gig with Kelly bringing the house down with old favourites like Tramps Vest, a Thousand Trees and Boy In the Photograph. And he gave it his all, singing some of their most popular songs with great feeling. He really wanted to be there, and the crowd went wild when the band finished with Dakota after a soulful solo version of Just Lookin'.
Interesting, too, to see that wherever they go there inevitably will be ex-pats turning up to see them. Paula and Rich, from Cardiff, have been living in Boston for three years but when they heard I was from the same city they couldn't wait to try to sell me their 450,000 house in Cefn Coed. The credit crunch has far reaching consequences.
One blip on the landscape was pictures. I tried to find a photograph as Nathan suggested but the gig was poorly publicised over here and the one freelance I met explained that despite trying for a week she was unable to obtain a pass for the gig. Apparently press pictures were only allowed during the first three songs, but there weren't any photographers there to take advantage.
Maybe the Stereos will have better luck in Canada, their next stop. I hope so. This gig just showed that you don't have to play big stadiums to be a big band and it would be great to see them in smaller venues in the UK, too.