Funny thing about Gruff Rhys: it’s hard to tell when he is making a joke, or simply making a comment. Almost everything he says is completely dead-pan in a thick Welsh accent and is rarely accompanied by a smile or even a smirk. Having never seen him or his regular band Super Furry Animals live before, I’m not sure if he is always like this, or if its because, by his own admission, he’s feeling a “little deranged.” That latter option is explained by Gruff shortly after Architecture Of Amnesia: “just to clarify something, when I said I was deranged, I just meant from tiredness; I didn’t want you to be worried!” Perhaps it’s the almost expressionless delivery of everything he says that makes him so funny! After he finds a capo which has gone astray, he has issues installing it. After the drummer and a tech help him, he finally proclaims “we have a breakthrough! It’s a shame its not a better song after all that!” The crowd cracks up again. So that’s Gruff. Dead-pan, yet hilarious. Grumpy, yet engaging.
The show itself showcases his newly released and critically acclaimed 5th solo record, Babelsberg, which he begins the show by playing from start to finish. Amusingly, he has hand-written signs prepared which are occasionally raised between songs with expressions such as “Applause” and “Prolonged Applause,” much to the amusement of the crowd who are happy to follow the direction. After the summery upbeat Negative Vibes, Gruff realises “oh I forgot to mention, we’re now on Side 2,” and quickly holds up a sign with “Side 2” on it, eliciting more chuckles around Bar Le Ritz.
After all 10 songs of Babelsberg are done, the 3-piece backing band departs the stage, leaving Gruff alone on his stool for a couple of solo numbers including the Welsh-language Iolo (pronounced YOLO, amusingly…). Band members slowly start returning to the stage, one by one, as they run through oldies Cycle Of Violence, Sensations In The Dark, and American Interior. The mantra-like Gyrru Gyrru Gyrru (meaning “Drive Drive Drive”) is slow to start, allowing Gruff to introduce his band (flashing up the “Applause” sign with each name!), before the song resumes and gradually accelerates to a frenetic breakdown. Gruff holds up a succession of signs reading “Thank You,” “Merci,” and “Fin,” before leaving the stage with his band.
Amidst cheers of “one more song!” from the crowd, Gruff promptly reappears on stage, holding a sign with the message “Resist Phony Encores,” much to the amusement of the crowd. Gruff explains “we’re technically outta time, but let’s see what we can do.” Much to the delight of the Super Furry Animals fans in attendance (which is surely all of us) Colonise The Moon from their 2005 Love Kraft record constitutes the encore, rounding off the show in moody fashion over the backdrop of an organ hum. Gruff props a sign stating “The End” on his stool as he leaves the stage for good, after 90 minutes. Not exactly riotous, raucous, or lively, but always engaging.
Review & photos – Simon WilliamsShare this :