KELLY Jones first brought his band to Dublin in 1996. We know this because the Stereophonics singer has decided that there's no better place to reminisce on times spent in Ireland than on a big old Irish stage.
He also shares details of his 30th birthday celebrations in the capital. "It took us three weeks to recover from three days," he laughs. These days, the Welsh music-maker is pushing 40. But Jones – a hardened frontman with a tremendous hairstyle – continues to age well. Maybe it's the clothes.
All leather jackets and pointy shoes, Stereophonics have rarely dressed better. It only took them 20 years but they actually look like proper rock stars. That isn't to say that they've disposed of every bad habit. For the first quarter of this surprisingly-well attended arena show, they come across as a confused pub-rock foursome.
There's no rapport, and no chemistry. They tread murky waters, dishing out unsettling grooves and throwaway, alt-rock numbers (Catacomb, Superman). And then, suddenly, they wise up. The oldies come out. Maybe Tomorrow is the eighth song on the set-list, but it's the first time the audience makes its presence known. Jones looks pleased. The line-up is different, too, but it all comes back to the man behind the microphone.
Aside from a couple of dodgy music videos, it's an impressive stage show. Clearly, Jones has his eye on the great outdoors (Stereophonics once headlined a concert at Slane Castle... chew on that one for a minute). They've also been watching some Coldplay DVDs. During Indian Summer, red and yellow balloons are unleashed upon the crowd. The lads are astonished at our reaction. "Make the most of them," warns Jones, kicking a balloon out of the way, "because after this, they're f***ing popped".
Some use the word 'whiskey' when it comes to describing the bloke's vocal. It's actually the sound of a man recovering from a bad cold. But in a good way. The cracking Mr Writer still gives us shivers. Just Looking recalls a time when Jones was good with hits. And they certainly struck gold with 2005's Dakota – still their finest moment, and a nice way to end a decent two-hour set. Eight albums in, Jones and his boys are headed nowhere exciting but they are, at least, a reliable live band.