On the back of their warmly-received ninth album Dark Days/Light Years, Cardiff wonders the Super Furry Animals filled out the Somerset House courtyard on a beautiful Saturday evening as part of the Summer Series.
Managing to cram over 20 tracks into a well thought out setlist, the band skilfully steered their way through that ever-difficult task of balancing new material with the old crowd favourites.
Employing a clever tactic by kicking off with a quintuple-whammy of hits Slow Life, (Drawing) Rings Around The World, Juxtaposed With U, Golden Retriever and Hello Sunshine as the sun set, they left the crowd excitedly wondering if this was going to be a run through of their most-loved singles.
It wasn’t. But the current album stands up well and the upbeat likes of Mt. and Inaugural Trams nestled in well during the first half of the gig. And from then on we were taken back and forth in time.
Of course the Super Furries have attempted all sorts of sounds over the years, bouncing between big epic ballads, throwaway pop tunes and swirling psychedelic prog-rock anthems. Their imagination, playfulness and ambition to push their own boundaries without worrying too much about current trends has given them a charm that most rock bands of the last 20 years don’t have. It’s often a worry as to whether their sonic schizophrenia will gel, especially in a live arena. But they know what they’re doing, as they should after all this time, and having got so many easily digestible tracks out of the way early on, the audience were entirely on side.
By the time they coupled up new offering Pric, in all its nine-minute psychedelic glory, with older chill-out track Blerwytirhwng? everyone was in Super Furry Land and they could have got away with virtually anything. As it turned out, these moments were blissful. It’s funny how sometimes songs come to life when played live, and some of the band’s tracks which can pass you by on record sounded stunning in performance. Somerset House gigs have a habit of producing these moments, especially when you’ve got a band that can pull out songs as beautiful as Demons or as engaging as The Man Don’t Give A Fuck.
Gruff Rhys gives off naturally warm vibes, and tonight he engaged with an obedient audience primarily through the international language of signs (instructing them when to clap and when to holler). They remain a band who are able to produce music that’s inventive, experimental and accessible. And they offer it to us without the swagger and arrogance of so many of their peers.
It’s always a let-down to end without an encore, and even an hour and a half wasn’t enough time to fit in the likes of Something 4 The Weekend or It’s Not The End Of The World, but it’s great to see that in a year when so many of their mid-’90s Britpop peers are reforming and attempting comebacks, the band that just carried on making music without imploding are still at the top of their game.