We had first seen the Crocketts about eight months before when they opened for Stereophonics at the Wolves Civic Hall, and had become firm fans. It was a Christmas show and there – at the bar – was Kelly Jones. The Stereophonics frontman had just finished a UK tour, in arenas. I had seen the NEC show and it lacked the brilliance of the of the Wolverhampton spring affair. Jones spent the evening, chatting, he was friendly and happy, it seemed, to be at a gig. He later got up on stage to perform with his friends (from memory a cover of “My Girl” but let me off it was nearly 13 years ago) and it was a great night.
I tell this story for two reasons. First, because that was the last time we saw the Stereophonics in any guise. Them having drifted off into ever more bland and indie areas and me staying with rock and metal, and second because it proves that Jones had absolutely none of the “rock star” about him. It is this attitude, you suspect, that means that, for this tour they choose to do much smaller venues. Lets be honest, if they wanted to they could be at the NIA up the road if they wanted. The fact that they are in a 1400 capacity place like the Academy speaks volumes for their ethos.
It was this that led me to buy a ticket. Here was a chance to watch a band we used to like in the habitat we used to watch them in. And given that they start with “Bartender And The Thief “ the lead single from “…Cocktails” it truly is like being transported back to my mid-twenties. This is followed by “A Thousand Trees” from their quite marvelous debut record and it is remarkable how quickly I am remembering these songs.
This is not a greatest hits set though. This pre Christmas jaunt is to try out tracks from a forthcoming record and also to break in new drummer Jamie Morrison. The latter is, in our opinion much more successful than the former. Morrison is good. Two of the new tunes not so, given that they are occupying the same middle of the road territory that much of their later output has. In fact, the inclusion of “Mr Writer” halfway through the set is rather apt, given that song is the exact moment when I stopped loving the band. It remains to this day, dull and whiny.
What you can’t do is argue with trio of classics that the band end the main set with. “More Life In A Tramps Vest,” “Just Looking” and “Local Boy In The Photograph” are just fabulous. As, to be fair, is the encore. The third new track “Violins and Tambourines” is a slow-burning epic that echoes Marillion and “Traffic” is a piece of quirky brilliance.”
It is last song, “Dakota” though, that really sums up the night neatly. It is a decent song, yes. But not to these ears anywhere near what was on the first couple of records. The crowd, however, goes ballistic. And good luck to them. All this shows to RTM though, is that The ‘Phonics aren’t our band anymore. They became global when we weren’t looking, while we were still at The Flapper looking for excitement.
A good gig, but one which will be gig of the year to most the audience, even if not to me.