Killian Laher writes.
I know very little about Super Furry Animals, and even less about Gruff Rhys’ solo stuff. Perhaps there’s a reason for that?! I always found SFA’s zaniness a bit hard to take. However I do know, and am partial to, his vocal contribution to Mogwai’s Rock Action, Dial: Revenge.
Support was acoustic troubadour H Hawkline. He sounded Welsh, and was a bit like Billy Bragg meets Gomez. He bemoaned his “depressing songs” but they weren’t that depressing. Indeed the venue suited his brand of acoustic folk quite well.
Gruff Rhys came on next. The first half of his show turned out to be an unexpected pleasure, focusing on brooding acoustic songs, reminding me of Jape or Mark Kozelek’s work on recent album Admiral Fell Promises. The only zaniness on show was his ‘colourful’ guitar. His guitar work was particularly impressive, very Nick Drake, without the moping vocals.
Sadly the aforementioned lack of zaniness wouldn’t last unadorned. He introduced a drone machine to accompany new single Shark Ridden Waters, then later harmonica, plus a small device that seemed to be a ‘metronome’ for his ‘Blue Peter’ folk-rock.
After a short break, the set transformed into a freak-out with looped vocals, static noise, beats, samples, keyboards. This portion worked less well, kind of shambolic, especially when looping his own voice on Gwn Mi Win. He even introduced drumsticks with flashing lights. The word eclectic is often bandied about to describe musicians like these, but he came across as more of a mad inventor. There aren’t too many of those in modern music. Experimental or bollocks? You decide.