Stereophonics Live from Dakota

During their five album career, Welsh band Stereophonics have become one of the UK’s most popular acts. While it might not be immediately obvious that they’ve cultivated a healthy following in North America, they appear to have done pretty well for themselves on this side of the Atlantic too. Well enough to find enough of a rabid audience to attend the recording of a double live CD. Like so many live albums, Live from Dakota will make fans very happy but most other people will wonder what all the fuss is about. That is particularly true in this case because this release catches the band at their must unsubtle. They came to Dakota to rock, and rock they do. There’s no in-between song banter or any other relief from the onslaught either — just business. The addition of new drummer Javier Weyler appears to have revitalised the band and there’s no denying that they perform with a great deal of energy. Yet to the unconverted, it is hard to see the appeal. Guitars are pushed to the front of their sound in a "stadium rock” kind of way, and the rawness of Kelly Jones’s vocals without their usual studio polish begins to grate. There are no real surprises in the song choices either — all the big hits are featured and they throw in the odd more obscure choice (like an old b-side and some album tracks), but ultimately they are just catering to their ample fan base. Not that there’s anything wrong with that; everyone else can just keep moving. (Nettwerk)