Super Furry Animals, Somerset House, London
Wednesday 29 July 2009
Prolific psychedelic pranksters Super Furry Animals released their ninth studio album, Dark Days/Light Years, in April, with front man Gruff Rhys teasing diehard fans that their new offering was "too enormous to play indoors". So no gigs, then?
Well, not exactly. The band has been true to Gruff's word, insomuch that there's no promotional tour. Instead, the only chance to catch them over the summer is at a handful of festivals or tonight's show at Somerset House.
To looping beats, the band mount the stage, Gruff taking up his position on the left, guitarist Bunf to the right, with keyboard player Cian and bassist Guto as usual lurking in the shadows in front of drummer Daf. Gruff holds aloft a selection of signs – "Woah!" and "Applause!" – to choreograph the crowd, who duly oblige.
Any suggestion that the band would devote the set solely to Dark Days is scotched as the opening bars of "Slow Life" send the few remaining pigeons skittering from the rooftops. It's exactly what the majority of the mature fans clustered in the courtyard have come to hear. It's not until almost half an hour into the show – after classics including "(Drawing) Rings around the World" and "Hello Sunshine" are lapped up – that we get to hear any new material.
"Mountain", the first of the tracks off the latest album, is politely received, eliciting a clapalong. "Moped Eyes" is similarly appreciated, but the crowd are naturally happier to revel in the older tunes "Demons" and "If You Don't Want Me to Destroy You".
Standout new tracks are "Pric", which features Gruff swinging around a child's whirly tube, and "Crazy Naked Girls". On first hearing, the latter sounded more novelty filler than album opener, but live it makes complete sense. Gruff and co throw themselves into the track, all huge riffs and discordant chords, like an acid-laced homage to cock-rock. This must be the track that they suggested was for outdoor consumption only – if Somerset House had a roof, ceiling cornices would have come cascading down on the audience.
How to follow this? "The Man Don't Give a Fuck", of course. The SFA anthem elicits the biggest roar of the night, a mass jumpalong and what must be the filthiest chorus the venue has ever heard. And then a soothing version of "Keep the Cosmic Trigger Happy" rounds up the set, sending fans out into the Strand well and truly Furried up.
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