Bands playing an old, classic album from start to finish live is nothing new but Yes are, offhand & with no recourse to Google, the only example I can come up with of an act touring two historic albums at the same time. They, however, don’t seem to do so chronologically whilst, tonight, Super Furry Animals do. It’s 20 years since the band debuted with Fuzzy Logic and 19 (an equally important anniversary as Gruff Rhys points out) since they followed it up with Radiator. On a personal level it’s also that long since I’ve been to see them play.
You probably can’t describe SFA as a cult band but they do inspire cultish devotion from their fans – for a couple of friends somewhere in The Usher Hall tonight this will be the fifth of the band’s show’s seen in 2016 and of the recent ‘nostalgic’ gigs I’ve been to this is the one to generate most annoyance when people have discovered they’ve missed it (something a more obvious advertising campaign may have dealt with). Newly purchased band hats & scarves are therefore much in evidence amongst the crowd.
Initially there’s an unpleasant reminder of the show I saw here last month as the sound for opening track ‘God! Show Me Magic’ is ropey – mix all over the place, Gruff’s vocals practically inaudible and then the drums seem to be ahead of the pace. A cringey beginning that is thankfully sorted out swiftly. After that point things go as you’d expect so there’s no reason to get that concerned about the setlist despite it being the easiest one I’ve probably ever had the chance to detail. Safe to say it was a far more enjoyable show than my only other experience of such an event, Pet Sounds at Primavera Sound in the summer. Knowing what’s coming next puts you in a curious position anticipation-wise (not unenjoyable) and you at least know what you won’t be hearing, unless there’s some ‘best of’ encore (which tonight there isn’t).
Indeed playing the band’s recent Best Of : 1995-2016 album Zoom! it struck me how many slow numbers they’ve had out as singles & that, at least lumped together on one album, they don’t greatly appeal to me nowadays. Handy then that Radiator is my favourite of the band’s albums, with everything on it feeling a good fit in any order. Its rendition is unfortunately interrupted for around ten minutes early on due to the PA being blown, which just goes to show that when SFA rock out they have the riffs to beat all-comers.
There’s not a great deal of chat tonight (fittingly there's a minute's applause for Howard Marks between sets) but that’s not to say that the band appear to feel they’re there to just do a job – there’s a clear communion between crowd and group that speaks volumes and which comes to a rapturous head when they finish things off with the obligatory ‘The Man Don’t Give A Fuck’, as apt a statement about the UK today as it’s ever been. Long live SFA.
Support tonight came from local duo Man Of Moon, who went down pretty well with the sparse crowd that was in the hall at that point (they were on around only ten minutes after doors open so not a great deal of time for folk to filter in). I’ve managed to miss seeing them at a couple of events in the past 15 months or so therefore it was handy to have now seen what they can do live. They were clearly undaunted by the size of the venue but I suspect that a smaller room is where they really get into their stride so I’ll need to keep an eye out for the chance of witnessing that.
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