Super Furry Animals, Memorial Hall, Barry
Sunday 10 July 2005
What's going on really? Something almost as strange. Super Furry Animals, one of my favourite bands on earth, are preparing for their big Somerset House show with a low-key warm-up gig in Barry, the docks town/resort where I grew up. To put you in the picture, nobody of any repute has played Barry since Billy Bragg back in 1987 (although Catatonia once paid a visit before they made it big).
In some ways, this isn't so odd. The Super Furries have long been committed to gigging in neglected smalltown Wales, and now it's Barry's turn. What makes it even weirder, for me, is the fact that SFA have chosen the Memorial Hall, whose boards my eight-year-old self twice trod as a junior member of the Barry Arts Centre, in Treasure Island and A Christmas Carol.
The "Memo" is also the scene where real teenage dramas were acted out at the youth disco. (Who is that cute girl in the polka-dot ra-ra, dancing to Dexys? And why is Emma sat in my lap, when Karen's the one I want? Angst!) And here I am again two decades later watching Gruff Rhys, Huw Bunford, Cian Ciaran, Dafydd Ieuan and Guto Pryce walking out in neon yellow radiation suits (Gruff with added red crash helmet, jamming the mic in through the visor-hole), to road-test their forthcoming album, Love Kraft. "Surreal" doesn't begin to describe it.
There's been precious little advertising save for one canvas banner strapped to the side of the Memo itself, but there has been enough word-of-mouth to fill the hall, and hear exclusive premieres of tracks such as "Frequency", "Lazer Beam" and "Zoom" introduced with winsome simplicity and deadpan literal-ness ("This is a song about cloud-shaped berries - and it's called 'Cloudberries'").
SFA's genius has always been in realising that stoner rock music is all well and good, but hey, let's see what happens when you make pure pop music on drugs. And, even though Love Kraft ventures deep into their mellow, country-rock side, this basic premise hasn't deserted them.
It's highlighted more obviously on the cosmic boogie of "Rings Around The World", and fellow singles such as the sweet "Hello Sunshine" and even sweeter "Fire In My Heart", the anthemic "Something For The Weekend", and my personal favourite, the sprawling, uplifting-yet-heartbreaking "Ice Hockey Hair".
They end, as is traditional, with "The Man Don't Give A Fuck", accompanied by images of our leaders, captioned "ALL GOVERNMENTS ARE LIARS AND MURDERERS". It's still echoing in my mind the following morning, as I watch Bush and Blair responding to events which, at the time of writing, may scupper SFA's big London gig. Which, if anything, makes tonight an even more precious and singular experience.
Croeso i Barri. Diolch yn fawr.
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