Gruff Rhys: American Interior, Soho Theatre, review - 'An idiosyncratic outing'


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The Independent Culture

In the 12th century, a Welsh prince called Madoc discovered America - or so legend has it.In the 18th century, John Evans walked thousands of miles in search of ‘white Welsh Indians’.

And two years ago, Gruff Rhys followed his ancestor’s journey, with a felt puppet of Evans, a camera and guitar in tow. The result has been turned into an album, book, film, app - and tonight’s show, as much an illustrated lecture as gig. With his dry, lilting, vague delivery, Rhys is an amusing guide - although he clearly admires Evans’ pluck.

The evening is ramshackle - Rhys’s iPad nearly runs out of battery; a note on his mouth organ is blocked… but somehow, it all adds to the charm. Plus, the new songs are some of the strongest he’s ever penned.

And just as Rhys lightly brings together historical events with a modern quest, so analogue meets digital onstage: he uses a metronome, an acoustic guitar, vinyl records and electronic effects boxes, while an iPad and a projector show photographs of the puppet, styled look like grainy archive slides.

It all adds up to another idiosyncratic outing from a true musical pioneer.