You can tell a lot about someone by the company they keep. It never felt the Stereophonics crowd at Leeds’ O2 Academy gave Nadia Sheikh a fair hearing, perhaps as distracted as they were with seeing their heroes warm up in more intimate surroundings before embarking on a European arena tour.
Their loss. Since causing some head-turning moments on the summer festival circuit, the half English, half Spanish singer has used the clash of cultures to good effect, belying her young age through a set of punchy guitar-based pop rock tracks, stopping between each one to pinch herself as to where her fledging career is taking her.
Opening track Toxic contains the grungiest guitar sound of the evening, Get Away stirred interest, Sheikh achieving the impossible by set closer and latest single Break Free, engaging the audience to the point of their actual participation. Sheikh will thrive in an arena with the confidence, vivacity and assurance of an emerging star.
Stereophonics walked on to the theme from The Warriors, a statement perhaps of what was to come, a raw rock and roll gig, sleeves rolled firmly up as they brawl through a 28-year and 11-album career of guitar rock? Sadly not. In the band’s defence it was always going to be hard to enliven recent lacklustre release Kind, but they have the back catalogue to overcome such adversity should they choose to do so.
Instead they reluctantly pulled together a pedestrian performance of an uninspiring setlist, the crowd appearing disinterested throughout, more concerned with loudly discussing whatever the pressing issues of the day had been or being perturbed it proves difficult to easily manoeuvre back and forth to the bar unhindered in a sold-out music venue.
Catacomb was a low-key opener, Superman picked matters up before Geromino’s timely saxophone intervention garnered the most fleeting of interest, only to have water poured on it by a plodding Fly Like An Eagle and Mr and Mrs Smith. Bust this Town revealed where the real engine house of the evening was, drummer Jamie Morrison working up enough perspiration for the other four.
Lead singer Kelly Jones released his inner rock star on Sunny, starting off on piano, finishing with a guitar, stood on said piano. Lyrically tracks Make Friends With The Morning and This Life Ain’t Easy epitomise the Kind album, a band safe in the knowledge that whatever they produce will be picked up by lunchtime radio, no requirement to break out into a sweat.
Stereophonics’ first visit to Leeds was in an old van, Kelly proffered, British Airways seats welded onto a dilapidated chassis, the hungry band helping forge a career through an energetic performance at the Duchess of York. On this showing that appetite has waned. The internet informs that the encore comprised C’est La Vie and Dakota but by this time the same thoughts that were clearly preoccupying the audience throughout had taken hold, slumped shoulders heading home.