Supergrass, Northumbria University, Newcastle
Monday 03 May 2004
When bands underline their anniversary with a greatest-hits album, DVD and tour, the event becomes as much a consideration of their lasting legacy as a celebration of their best-known songs. So it is with Supergrass, who have chosen to mark their decade in the guitar-wielding pop world in exactly that way.
There is a problem with the Oxford trio's decision to take such a path. That "Supergrass Is 10"(as the greatest-hits album, DVD and tour are all called) is hardly a great milestone in the history of rock'n'roll. Indeed, as a band the only remarkable thing about their 10-year existence is just how happy they have been to follow the path of least resistance. No reaching for the undiscovered stars with this band; just well-trodden riffs and little ambition beyond replicating Ziggy's glam, Jaggers's melodies, Lennon's harmonies, Neil Young's sideburns and Davy "Monkees" Jones's witless charm - but without the thrill-seeking, self-destructive edge.
So what, exactly, will be the lasting legacy of Supergrass, then? Well, they are responsible for a clutch of joyous indie anthems - not exactly the stuff of legend, perhaps, but it would be a hardened and bitter cynic who didn't raise a smile and tap a foot to fuzzy pop hits such as "Alright", "Sun Hits the Sky" and "Pumping on Your Stereo".
So, Supergrass is 10, then, and a greatest-hits celebration of the band's joyous guitar pop would seem perfect- on paper, at least. Sadly, the band deliver a set that seems fuelled more by the desire to fade away than to burn brightly.
From the apologetic quiet-to-loud opening of "In it for the Money", the band plough through a half-hour of near-indistinguishable guitar sludge. Not even the previously glorious, grunge-lite "Richard III" is able to withstand what is little more than a spiritless, emotionless onslaught.
When things appear to draw to an early, if welcome, close, the crowd take the opportunity to sing the praises not of the band they've just paid to see, but of the local football team. It is not until the eventual reappearance of Supergrass in "unplugged" acoustic mode that we see the first moment of connection between audience and band. A heartwarming run-through of one of the band's more poignant songs, "Late in the Day", engages the crowd in a sing-along every bit as passionate as the previous terrace chants.
It's only a fleeting moment of brilliance, however, as Supergrass remain in acoustic mode for far too long, testing the patience of even their most loyal fans. With the eventual return to electric territory, things already seem lost. Despite the radio hits, the advert soundtracks and a crowd intent on enjoyment at any cost, the trio just seem to fade away - running out of steam before our very eyes.
Supergrass may be 10, but on this showing at least, this will be the last anniversary they celebrate.
Supergrass play Guildhall, Southampton, tonight, Rock City, Nottingham, on Wednesday, and continue touring to 22 May
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