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The Stereophonics made their fans’ Christmas when they announced a small run of intimate festive dates, including a homecoming gig at the Newport Centre. And the Welsh group were rewarded for their effort with this show selling out in just two minutes.

Unsurprisingly, the crowd (which was dominated by Welsh lads, your archetypal Nuts reader/Footie fan/Stereophonics) is abuzz with excitement as former Supergrass singer Gaz Coombes takes to the stage. He impresses with a set of his well-received new solo material as well as a couple of older numbers including an acoustic version of Supergrass’ ‘Moving’. The perfect opener for the main draw.

The Stereophonics line-up changed with the departure and subsequent death of much-loved drummer Stuart Cable and tonight it’s transformed with the addition of several new touring members, including replacement drummer Jamie Morrison – with a similar hair do to that of Cable. And it really does work. The band appears with the gorgeous wee Kelly Jones last onto the stage, looking dapper in a shirt and waistcoat.

They launch straight into the raucous that is ‘Bartender and the Thief’, grabbing the crowd by the balls from the off. This massive tune fills the hall and gets some hardened fans moving while others bop in agreement. What follows is a near perfect greatest hits set peppered with some fantastic sounding new songs, destined to appear on the band’s forthcoming album. These guys may have been around for a remarkable 20 years but they show no sign of letting up.

With the opening line of every song a massive cheer goes out to the relentless indie rockers – from the poignant 90s anthem ‘A Thousand Trees’ and the recent blinder ‘Superman’ to the radio friendly ‘Pick A Part That’s New’ and the angsty ‘Mr Writer’ (their response to a bad review they once had) it’s all musical gold. Then they impress with a new song ‘Indian Summer’, which shares more than a title with their fellow Welsh heroes Manic Street Preachers – with soaring strings and raw, powerful vocals this song is bound to be a hit when released in 2014.

There’s a plotted history of their two decades in the industry with a good selection of material old and new, but it’s the oldies which are the goodies – with ‘More Life In A Tramp’s Vest’ and ‘Local Boy In The Photograph’ proving an outstanding ending to the main set. We’re also treated to a rare performance of ‘Nothing Precious At All’, a track which the band hasn’t performed live in about eight years.

There’s chatter over what the encore will include, ‘Traffic’ maybe? But in the end it’s their recent hit, and only number one single, ‘Dakota’ (2004) which takes the prime spot – Kelly blasting out impressive, sing-a-long friendly vocals from his tiny frame. Altogether now: “You made me feel like the one, made me feeeeel like the one. The one.” A perfect end to a practically perfect gig.

Words and photo: Laura Williams