Pop review: Super Furry Animals UEA, Norwich

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Indy Lifestyle Online
"Please note crowd surfing is not permitted," it said on the tickets. Ferried aloft like the packed lunches of some strain of giant ants, several students in tonight's audience gleefully ignored the ban. Earlier, SFA's shaggy-haired singer Gruff Rhys had confessed he felt tempted to sing a chorus of "Born in the UEA". When this pun at Springsteen's expense segued into one about "Surfing UEA", die-hard fans couldn't resist taking him literally.

Such joie de vivre was understandable, for Super Furry Animals' "love" show has recently developed into a mini-extravaganza which bombards the sensorium. Gruff stood stage right with a huge, inflatable thought-bubble above his head. At strategic moments, words and images were projected on to it. To his left, the giant inflatable light bulb above Huw Bunford cast the lead-guitarist as a man of ideas. Centre stage was dominated by a brace of kettle drums.

While we read their minds on the inflatables, our ears were sweetly blasted by a quadraphonic sound-system previously used by both Pink Floyd and The Grateful Dead. This was particularly effective at the end of "Smokin'", with textured throbs of analogue synth shafting us from behind, hitting our aural G-spots and drawing us into the vortex of the song's Funkadelic- meets-Rod Stewart chorus. Whether the song is a marijuana-nation anthem, or - as Gruff recently joked - a rallying call for Britain's mackerel fishermen, it grooves mightily.

Earlier, "Ice Hockey Hair" (those helmets play havoc with your barnet, apparently) was a mid-set highlight. This title track from the band's new EP funnels psychedelia and acid house influences into test tubes fizzing with pop suss. With it's "now that you're here tell me you're a non-believer" outre-hook grafted on a la "Hey Jude", the audience found its climactic qualities irresistible.

Those kettle drums, incidentally, were played just once. A decadent appendage to the sonic arsenal, they were a reminder that SFA are shifting up a gear on all fronts. Perhaps Creation records have realised that, with the Gallagher brothers poised at the top of the down escalator, and the Super Furry's penning monster tunes on an almost weekly basis, these former patrons of the Welsh anarcho-punk circuit are worthy of a little more financial muscle.

The closing two numbers of their near-two-hour-set were divine. First, we got "God Show Me Magic" - its indie T-Rex hook clear proof that he did - then they closed with "The Man Don't Give A Fuck". As the sensurround sound kicked-in to add ironic weight to the song's 52 expletives, I watched a girl being ported out on a St John's ambulance stretcher. Just mild hysteria, I think.