AfterDark’s Dean Hodge reviews the third and final leg of Super Furry Animals’ 3-date gig in Cardiff last weekend.
As far as mammoth comebacks goes, this particularly breed of mammoth is as big, as brash, as colourful and particularly as ‘furry’ as they come. In some ways, Welsh sonic meddlers Super Furry Animals – returning for their first gigs in Cardiff in six years at the Cardiff University Great Hall – never really went away in the first place.
All five members of the group – Gruff Rhys, Guto Pryce, Huw ‘Bunf’ Bunford, plus brothers Dafydd Ieuan and Cian Ciarán (see AfterDark’s interview with him here) – have been working on their own various solo projects, while their music continues to be an eternal soundtrack for indie raves everywhere. However, their return to action was a welcome reminder and at times a literal jolt to the senses of just how much we missed them. Furthermore, it testified how much their inbred, technicolour-infused brand of rock ‘n’ roll – delivered in a mystical Welsh lilt – is needed in both in these grey, election-dominated times and the bland chart music-dominated landscape.
Indeed, with Blur marking their recent reunion with a number one album and (as ever) the much rumoured though vaguely sourced stories of an Oasis reformation, Super Furry Animals couldn’t really have picked a better time to return. Add to that the fact it coincides with twenty years since the band were first signed by Creation Records, and a 15th anniversary deluxe reissue of their Welsh language album Mwag.
Certainly, the unenviable task of selecting from a discography spanning two decades to whittle down into a two-hour setlist is never going to be easy, especially handpicking from one as diverse and decidedly dicey as this. Unsurprisingly, the third and final leg of their Cardiff comeback, falling on a rainy Sunday evening on a bank holiday weekend, stretched on for a marathon amount of time. It felt as much like a journey through the infinite possibilities of the musical universe as it did through their impressive back catalogue.
Having arrived at the venue shortly after a delayed six-hour train journey from Cornwall to Cardiff, I wasn’t at my preferred peak of energy, but any tiredness I had was soon dispersed from the sucker punch opening duo of (A) Touch Sensitive and (Drawing) Rings Around The World.
I could try and pick a highlight but to do so wouldn’t do justice to a set that was unrelentingly brilliant from the off and packed more hooks than a Maywhether-Pacquiao showdown. The personal highlight for me came in the whimsical charms of perennial live favourite Hello Sunshine – the Furries’ ode to The Beatles’ Here Comes The Sun – which didn’t fail to get every one in the room singing along to its catchy refrain, and every couple throwing their arms around their loved one. Never has the line ‘I’m a minger, you’re a minger too’ been sang with such elegiac emotion.
Equally as unifying was the mellow Big Apple-tinged soul of Juxtaposed With U, which provoked a flurry of couples dancing along. Even as one of the singles one in the audience though, I found myself singing along (or at least moving my mouth in time with the lyrics). Then, there was a stirring performance of the debut single that kicked it all off for them, the mystical pop of Hometown Unicorn, and the benign ballad If You Don’t Want Me To Destroy You – arguably elevated to a great height of infamy as the line painted across their signature army tank which has become a thing of rock myth.
Despite the endless list of anthems they had to choose from, there was really only one choice for the encore – the hymn-for-the-disillusioned The Man Don’t Give A F*** – which sounded even more relevant than ever against the backdrop of election week. The closer in itself lasted for a lifetime, descending into a flurry of feedback midway through as the band temporarily left the stage, before returning in their famous yeti costumes to finish off in epic style. After finally reaching the end, Gruff Rhys held up a ‘Diolch’ (Welsh for goodbye) sign to the applauding audience before leaving the stage for good.
Hopefully, this won’t be the final ‘diolch’ of the band who demonstrated they haven’t lost their golden touch. After half a dozen years away, Super Furry Animals sounded as refreshed, rejuvenated, and raring to inflict their mushroom cloud of sublime psychedelic heavy-soul on the world as ever.