First Night: Furry, but not cuddly, in spotlight

Super Furry Animals Wolverhampton Civic Hall
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The Independent Online
ON THE day that Richard Ashcroft announced the demise of The Verve, Gruff Rhys, the vocalist from the Super Furry Animals, appeared to be limbering up as his successor. While Rhys may not have The Verve front man's hollow cheeks or emaciated frame, his air of wistful intensity was pure Ashcroft. He was also in possession of an effortlessly commanding stage presence. The other members of the band could have been hired session musicians for all the attention that was paid to them as they lurked in the shadows and allowed the singer to bask in the spotlight.

Super Furry Animals form part of the wave of Welsh bands who have raised the cultural profile of Wales in recent years, transforming Cardiff into a mecca for chequebook-wielding A&Rs and style-bible babes. But to lump the Super Furries alongside Celtic contemporaries, Catatonia, Stereophonics, 60-ft Dolls, is to do little justice to their smart, psychedelic pop and the sparkling invention of their live shows.

At Wolverhampton, a multitude of television screens flickered across the stage as if the band had stumbled across a Gillianesque vision of the future. Kaleidoscopic patterns from the monitors were reflected on the singer's pallid face, adding to his enervated appearance. As he scrolled through Super Furries classics, the band's trademark whimsy took on a tragic tone with Rhys's voice stretching to cracking point. Even as the crowd called his name and chanted "Wales, Wales, Wales" he remained unsmiling.