Friday, November 2, 2007

The Storys To Support Elton...Again


They’ve shared the same bill as Paul Weller and next year they will support Sir Elton John for the third time. But, for now, The Storys are focusing on their imminent gig at a small Valleys venue. Karen Price reports

THE Storys are not afraid to take on board advice from some of the biggest names in the music business.

After all, the Swansea band have supported superstar Sir Elton John on tour – twice. And today it's revealed that they will join him once again next year – for a concert at the Liberty Stadium in their home city.

But they are currently preparing to play a much more intimate gig in the South Wales Valleys next week – and they are pondering words of wisdom from another famous rocker. Manic Street Preachers frontman James Dean Bradfield is urging The Storys to “bring the house down” when they appear in Blackwood – his home town – on Thursday.

Bradfield was on the same bill as the Swansea six-piece when they played the city’s National Waterfront Museum recently.

“He just told us to go for it at Blackwood and that the crowd would be great – we can’t wait,” says The Storys lead singer Steve Balsamo.

“Our drummer, Brian, might even wear eye make-up as a salute to the Manics.”

The two bands share a passion for melodic songwriting.

Bradfield’s talent was honed in Blackwood, where he formed the Manics along with childhood friends Richey Edwards, Sean Moore and Nicky Wire.

Balsamo says, “The Manics’ songs are very musical, full of great melodies – we thrive on melodies too. Perhaps it’s being Welsh, with our choral heritage, that allows us to be musical and melodic. We should all be proud of our heritage and the quality musicians and songwriters we have down here.”

The Storys enjoyed their gig in Swansea with Bradfield.

“He wanted to know what we were up to and was very encouraging about us making our way in music,” says Balsamo. “One lesson we took away was to keep writing good songs – even though he was playing rock numbers by the Manics on just an acoustic guitar they still sounded incredible. Another lesson was to be fair and decent with everybody you meet. It was good to see that somebody like James who’s sold so many records and who’s so big was so approachable and chatty. Music’s not just about playing gigs, it’s about the whole package – meeting people and being good with everyone.”

The Blackwood gig will be the last chance for music fans in Wales to catch The Storys live this year. And they will be previewing tracks from their new album, which is due to be released in February.

“It will be a great place to road test some of that stuff. I’m sure the audience will let us know exactly what they think.”

The Storys were formed almost five years ago and the line-up also includes Andy Collins, Dai Smith, Rob Thompson, Brian Thomas and Alan Thomas. The men range in age from their 30s to their 50s.

The Storys began recording their debut album in Thompson’s kitchen with Smith producing, before the band relocated to a converted cinema, The Hall, in Glyncorrwg in the Welsh valleys. They ended up recording more than 30 songs and 11 were selected for the self-titled album, which was critically acclaimed.

In fact, the album fell into the lap of Sir Elton and he was so impressed with what he heard that he invited the band to support him on his UK stadium and arena tour in 2006.

The Rocket Man himself called up Balsamo to offer the Welsh boys the important gig.

Suddenly the band – who had previously supported the legendary Tom Jones during his 65th birthday homecoming gig at Ynysangharad Park, Pontypridd in May 2005 – were propelled into the limelight.

Balsamo – who once played the leading role in the West End production of Jesus Christ Superstar – admits that arriving at the Manchester MEN Arena for the first night of Sir Elton’s tour was a daunting experience for the nervous support act.

Just after the tour ended he admitted, “The first night was amazing. Lawrence Davies, who is kind of our tour manager, is a big lump of a man but to see him crying when he was watching us, I thought we are doing something right. That was one of our highlights – to make a grown man cry.”

The Storys also ended 2006 on a high when they played European stadium gigs in support of Katie Melua.

This year has been just as successful and they found themselves touring with Sir Elton for a second time. Today it's revealed that they will join him next year at the Liberty Stadium.

But while the band may now have a national reputation, they continue to enjoy gigging on a local level – even managing to perform at Swansea Museum.

“It was for the Teenage Cancer Trust and coincided with a brilliant exhibition at the museum about the history of Swansea rock,” says Balsamo.

“It might have seemed an unlikely venue for the two gigs we did in one day but it was great.”

The Storys were also delighted this year to appear on a new CD alongside rock giants such as Paul Weller, Steve Winwood and Pete Townsend. A live version of a track by The Storys sits with work by other big names ranging from blues hero Gary Moore to songsmith Yusuf Islam (aka Cat Stevens).

Balsamo says, “To be on the same CD as these people is awesome – and it was even more incredible to meet them when the live recording was made.

“Working with some of the world’s top musical talent will, hopefully, have rubbed off on our own new album that’s due out in February.”

The live CD was recorded in January as a stellar line-up gathered for charity at London venue The Roundhouse. It salutes the late Jim Capaldi, of British prog-rockers Traffic, who released hit albums such as Mr Fantasy. Capaldi died of stomach cancer in 2005. The performers included Joe Walsh of The Eagles, Jon Lord of Deep Purple and Dennis Locorriere of Dr Hook. The event was hosted by broadcasting legend Whispering Bob Harris.

Balsamo says, “Capaldi created some top class music – he was a superb drummer and an articulate lyricist.

“We were over the moon to be invited to perform at the tribute event. We were bowled over to be rubbing shoulders with heroes like Weller, Winwood and Walsh.”

Now they look forward to rubbing shoulders with music fans in Blackwood – and taking Bradfield’s advice.

The Storys play Blackwood Miners’ Institute on Thursday. For more details, visit www.thestorys.co.uk

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