‘When I was growing
up, Sunday night was bath night.’
It takes a very
confident performer to start a gig with a tale of his alarmingly unhygienic
childhood bathing practices. But, clad in a pair of trousers that are
surprisingly tight for a man in his mid-forties, Kelly Jones is confidence
personified. His bath story is so hilarious and endearing that it gets the
audience on his side before he’s played a note.
It’s a sign of things
to come. Shorn of the expectations and limitations that come with performing in
arenas with the Stereophonics, Jones is able to show a side of himself that
rarely comes across on stage.
While the majority of the songs on tonight’s setlist first appeared on Stereophonics albums, most are relatively obscure album cuts rather than singles. Used to performing greatest hits sets, Jones is using this short solo tour to air some rarely played songs and share stories from his childhood and his life in showbiz.
After opening with a
couple of Stereophonics crowd-pleasers, he performs a string of songs from his
2007 solo album ‘Only the Names Have Been Changed’, which surely only a handful
of the audience have heard before. Jones alternates between an acoustic guitar
and piano, with his famously raspy vocals taking centre stage. A violin and an
occasional jazzy trumpet solo provide backing on these stripped-down and mostly
Jones lifts the mood
when he shares anecdotes about his late friend and bandmate Stuart Cable. One
of the biggest laughs of the night is when he reveals that Cable’s mother’s
name is ‘Mabel Cable’.
Jones’ stories are so
entertaining that they rival the music as the highlights of the gig. They
include a tale about a shepherd’s pie belonging to Keith Richards, as well as
Jones’ confession that he once reached such a low ebb that he found himself in
the self-help section of Waterstones.
In another musician’s
hands so much talking between songs could’ve come across as self-indulgent and
tedious, but not here. His comic timing and rapport with the audience suggest
that had his music career not worked out, he could’ve made a decent living on
the stand-up circuit.
Jones showcases his talents as a multi-instrumentalist by performing ‘Rewind’ on a ukulele, something you would surely never see at a conventional Stereophonics gig. The performance has the relaxed, informal feel of a man whiling away a few minutes on a lazy Sunday rather than playing to thousands of paying customers.
The sense of
exclusivity and intimacy is heightened when Jones plays a recently written song
that he’s never performed live before. In fact it’s so new that he struggles to
remember the title when he’s introducing it. ‘This Life Ain’t Easy But It’s the
One We All Got’ sounds polished and has a chorus to rival his biggest hits.
With the setlist
threatening to blend together given the high number of downbeat ballads, Jones
takes the volume and energy up a notch with ‘Jealousy’. A souped-up Delta blues
stomper reminiscent of Led Zeppelin, it rouses the audience out of their
mid-set lethargy. A large part of its power is provided by the drummer, whose
massive, bouncing hairdo means that if you squint your eyes she could almost
pass for Stuart Cable.
The tempo is
maintained with the next song, a cover of the 1980s staple ‘Stop Draggin’ My
Heart Around’. Jones is joined on stage by support act The Wind and the Wave,
whose singer Patricia Lynn plays Stevie Nicks to Jones’ Tom Petty.
Prior to the song Lynn
presents a cake to Jones in celebration of his upcoming birthday. She leads the
audience in a rendition of ‘Happy Birthday’ while he blows the candles out. ’27
again!’ he jokes.
He ends the night on a
high note with an encore of four Stereophonics hits. The final song is their
sole number one single, the euphoric ‘Dakota’. At its opening chords the
audience get to their feet, happy to experience something familiar after a rare
and highly enjoyable night of curveball song selections and witty anecdotes.