Looking back on the day, it was embarrassingly late when it finally dawned on me that the outdoor gig season had officially begun. I’m in a stadium, on a pitch no less, and without shinpads in sight. My shoulders and legs are out. I’ve taken two antihistamines. I’m suppressing a nagging anxiety about how much sun cream I applied when leaving the car. I’m chugging a £6.50 dark fruits like I’ve just finished a 5K. I’m surrounded by thousands of people having a good-natured sing-along to Be My Baby. Summer has finally arrived baby and it’s been summoned by the sweet, sweet, sunkissed sounds of Far From Saints.
With not even a handful of gigs under their belt, the outfit are very much in their introductory phase. Today, especially so, as they play as a support act to an audience of thousands inside the now oddly infamous Y Cae Ras. That’s Wrexham A.F.C’s The Racecourse Ground for those of us ignorant to Welsh and home of much beloved figure in the GoPlacesDoThings household, Paul Mullin.
A venue can sometimes take on a life of its own, and I’ve never seen this as vividly as today. Visitors soak up the magic that’s surrounded Wrexham A.F.C and their history-making season whilst locals proudly display scarfs and shirts and burst into chants usually reserved for the terraces. The day doesn’t shy away from its hosts as everything about the club is embraced throughout the day.
As the late afternoon sun bathes the stage Kelly Jones steps forward and greets the audience with a triumphant declaration, “Hello Wrexham, Congratulations!”. Boom, job done, connection established.
If todays performance were to have a goal in mind then it would be naïve to think it would be anything other than to replace the commonly overheard “it’s the guy from Stereophonics’ new band” type comments with “it’s Far From Saints“.
The opening chords of Screaming Hallelujah and Patty Lynn’s smokey vocals resonating through the stadium make for a powerful introduction that affirms Far From Saints as more than just a Kelly Jones solo project. The band’s chemistry is fun and contagious, with each member enjoying opportunities to showcase their individual talents that result in a harmonious blend of country, rock, folk, soul, and Americana. They joyfully jam out songs, occasionally turning their backs to the crowd to turn to each other instead, enjoying the early days of their live performances.
With their debut album due for release on June 16th Kelly introduces its lead single Let’s Turn This Back Around with a nod to Jo Wiley and BBC Radio 2’s support. Despite the audience’s limited exposure to the band’s music, the interaction was far from lacking. Whether you know these tunes or not, it’s the kind of music made for days like these and is all too easy to clap and sway along to.
A standout moment arrives with Take It Through The Night where Patty Lynn once again owns the spotlight. She shows impressive prowess on stage both vocally and with her stage presence. Casually holding her own, more than that even, next to her better-known counterpart.
Speaking of whom, throughout the set Kelly Jones personified the essence of a rock star. Swinging his guitar with enviable coolness, pacing the stage with unwavering confidence. Sporting a plain black t-shirt and those trademark chunky Ray-Bans, he exemplified the epitome of rock ‘n’ roll charisma.
It’s worth noting that Kelly Jones has overcome significant challenges, including a recent surgery on his vocal cords to remove a polyp. The documentary, Don’t Let the Devil Take Another Day, provides insight into his journey of recovery and the guidance of a vocal coach to regain his signature voice. Today, his instantly distinct voice sounds better than ever, a testament to his resilience and dedication.
In addition to their original tracks, Far From Saints delight the audience with their rendition of The Ronettes’ timeless classic Be My Baby. A glimpse into the band’s inspirations, showcasing the influence of iconic and unforgettable melodies on their own sound.
Their whole performance feels fully immersed in the music they hold dear. It’s a gesture that serves as a testament to the deeply personal nature of their artistry, where these songs were born from their own history. With the album now only a few weeks away from release, these songs will gradually find their way into the hearts of the audience, becoming anthems that resonate with shared stories and collective moments. It seems clear that Far From Saints created this music for themselves first and foremost, and their genuine passion and authenticity will undoubtedly make these songs an indelible part of the audience’s own musical journey in due course.
As the final chords of Tom Petty’s American Girl jangle out through the stadium, as obvious and ambitious a statement of intent that we can think of, it is clear that as much as the individual members of the band have left an indelible mark on music throughout their careers, music has left an even deeper mark on them. Their unadulterated love for music and collaboration is evident at every moment of a performance that is honest, real, and brimming with integrity.
It’s a rare occurrence to be headed to a gig mostly focused on seeing a support act. Just as it is to see Kelly Jones and Co. free of the burden of headlining to a stadia sized crowd. But Maybe Tomorrow (😉) they will be!
Photo gallery by Alex Cropper.