If you hadn’t noticed, Wales isn’t just for future kings, animals and preachers anymore. It’s also home for the gritty, yet melodic rock of the Stereophonics! Mostly known as the small country in the British Isles that houses the landholding of one particular well-known Prince and also as the home for the Super Furry Animals and the Manic Street Preachers, Wales also boasts a band with five albums under their respective belts, yet still remain somewhat unknown in the states. Live from Dakota is their first live album, a two CD set that captures the raw rock and roll energy within the Stereophonics. For its British fans and newcomers to the band, they could have simply put together a simple `greatest hits’ collection, but instead chose to represent themselves and their ten-year career with a concert album.
Live from Dakota picks from every single one of the Stereophonics’ albums, with a heavier emphasis on the most recent CD, that being Language. Sex. Violence. Other?. The collection even starts with the same two songs that begin L.S.V.O. It is the various other songs from throughout their career that make this set a keeper, however. “A Thousand Trees,” the opener from the `Phonics’ first album, is anthemic and powerful, especially with its Jones-screamed chorus of “It only takes one tree to make a thousand matches / it only takes one match to burn a thousand trees.” “Mr. Writer,” a scathing attack on critics (I ain’t mad atcha), “Maybe Tomorrow,” and “Local Boy in the Photograph” are all stellar songs featured on the first disc.
The second disc has a few rarities, the b-sides “Jayne” and “Carrot Cake and Wine,” plus a few older album tracks. “I’m Alright” and “Dakota” are two of those songs Folks with cable got their first aural `glimpse’ of the Stereophonics thanks to the Ewan McGregor, Charley Boorman show, “Long Way Round.” The show featured a handful of songs from the band including the show’s theme song (which became a b-side for the single “Dakota”). Hearing the theme and songs chosen for the show such as “Maybe Tomorrow” and “Mr. Writer,” you get a fairly quaint view of the band. But hearing those songs lives alongside guitar powerhouses such as “Vegas Two Times” and Jones’ gravelly scream, the music of the Stereophonics takes on all new meanings. They prove that a successful band doesn’t just recreate their studio sound onstage. Instead, they adapt and feed off of a live audience, making the sound as organic and raw as rock and roll should be. For instance, gone are the falsettos of “Superman,” in its place, Jones’ non-produced energetic and emotional release.
The Stereophonics, whom I admittedly used to get confused with Stereolab and the Stereo M.C.’s, are one of those rare bands that can belt out a hard charging buzzsaw guitar anthem as well as they can write an introspective and poignant ballad. In one song, “Local Boy in the Photograph,” they somewhat combine both, making a catchy pop single out of the tragedy of a suicide. Hearing the sound of the screaming crowds and seeing the pictures of the packed arenas, not to mention the incredible performances from the band, I wonder why they haven’t caught on here as well as they have in the UK. Hopefully, Live from Dakota can do exactly what the band hopes it does, which is garner new American fans. Those who have read my reviews know that I’m not usually a big fan of live albums, but there are a handful of concert CDs that I enjoy, and Live from Dakota can be counted among them.
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