Stereophonics, Alexandra Palace, London

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The Independent Culture

It is brave indeed for any band, let alone one whose raw talents have notably diminished on the evidence of the albums previous to last spring's Language, Sex, Violence, Other?, to fill a set for one of London's largest venues with not only the more obscure but the worst of their back catalogue.

Songs such as "Caravan Holiday" and "Carrot Cake & Wine" sounded incredibly lost amid the AC/DC-inspired riffs of newer tunes such as "Deadhead" and failed entirely to galvanise the crowd. They relied on the few die-hard fans to begrudgingly over-compensate for the weak applause. The more recent, heavier tracks such as "Doorman" were spurred on by unrelenting rock beats from bassist Richard Jones and newcomer Javier Weyler on drums and held a spark of the old chemistry.

Perhaps the Argentinean Weyler - replacement for founding member Stuart Cable - will provide the influence needed to move the band forward, away from the drudgery of songs like "Just Looking." "Maybe Tomorrow" had all the musical chops but little of the emotion of Kelly Jones' solo performance at Live8 in July, and it seemed a shame to deny the budding rhythm section the chance to shine on the slower numbers too.

They finished with what they are well aware is their saving grace: this year's chart-topper "Dakota" and for the first time all night people's feet actually left the ground. Despite having done almost two concerts a week for a year, Jones' voice has retained its impeccable Rod Stuart-esque roar. As wonderful as his voice is, the Stereophonics should stop relying on Jones for leverage and pursue their obvious talents at music with more of a kick if they want to keep making their mark in the restless world of pop.

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