6th December | O2 Academy
There’s a compelling argument to be made that Super Furry Animals were the most consistently British band to have emerged from the mid 90’s cultural revolution that was Britpop. From their early days as Euro-techno obsessed noise bandits, to the sublime whimsy of mid period highs such as Welsh language album Mwng, SFA have always had a knack for reinventing themselves with each record, while simultaneously sounding like no one else but themselves. This makes their current tour, celebrating 20 years since the release of their debut album Fuzzy Logic, and not-so-difficult second album Radiator, something of an anomaly.
Nostalgia gigs can go one of two ways; either it’s a ill-fated attempt to recapture past glories. Or it’s a life affirming Proustian time warp back to those heady days when you were young and carefree, music meant everything, and that was all that mattered.
Luckily tonight proves to fall on the latter side of this perilous divide. Ambling onstage in typically self-effacing fashion, Gruff and co, all dressed in white jumpsuits, like a team of mad scientists, launch straight into track one of Fuzzy Logic, the glam-rock on speed thrills of ‘God! Show Me Magic’. It’s a strange feeling to know the setlist in advance, but such is the nature of ‘whole album’ shows such as this, that the audience are unlikely to care.
Gruff has always been a man of few words, but although his audience interaction tonight is minimal, what he does offer is warmly received by the captive audience. After a brief explanation of the “plan for the evening”, we’re straight back into the technicolour world of the Super Furries joyous debut record. As a long-term SFA-head, it’s fascinating to hear some of the less immediate album tracks being reworked. ‘Gathering Moss’ sounds like a bunch of robots trying to replicate a Spanish ballad, while ‘For Now And Ever’ is fist-pumping upbeat, an appropriate halfway point for tonight’s proceedings. Unsurprisingly though, it is the strongest tracks from Fuzzy Logic that come across best; the stomping ‘Something 4 The Weekend’ and the beautiful sentiment of ‘If You Don’t Want Me To Destroy You’, both personal highlights.
Radiator was the album where SFA really came into their own. Hearing those songs live tonight is the main draw for this writer, and the band didn’t disappoint. The most striking part of the Radiator section is how varied and unique these songs are, even now. ‘Demons’ is as beautiful as it ever was, with Gruff lamenting that “…sunny days in January, left spaces in my diary”. ‘She’s Got Spies’ triggers brief sections of wild thrashing from the hardcore fans down the front, its alternating ‘chilled/very much not-chilled’ structure working like a dream in this context. However, it’s the final run of tracks that bring Radiator to a close that provide the spine-tingling moments. The intertwining twin guitars of ‘Bass Tuned To D.E.A.D’ sound fantastic, and ‘Down A Different River’ is like a melancholic paean to the decaying Universe itself.
As the band launch into the second half of ‘Mountain People’, the Cheshire-cat grins are plastered all over the faces of the Furry worshipping masses. Surely only an encore consisting of a 10 minute rendition of ‘The Man Don’t Give A Fuck’ could make this night any better?…Oh hang on. Yes, there it is. And the band have come back on dressed as hairy alien-monster creatures, you say? Of course they have.
Nostalgia is fine, but Super Furry Animals are here now and they still sound like nothing else on Earth. Cherish them.
Check out Super Furry Animals performing ‘God! Show Me Magic’ below.