The Super Furry Animals revisiting their first two albums in spectacular style.
It was a Friday night in December 2016, and the day before, I’d passed my PhD viva. I’d celebrated in style the night before at a Kula Shaker gig, and the party continued on Friday with this stunning show from Super Furry Animals, performing their first two albums in full. And while the previous night had been fantastic, this was where the magic truly lived. From my diary:
‘I think on Thursday night I was still a little dazed and bewildered, brain buzzing on a cocktail of adrenaline and Prosecco and v. little food. Friday night it really was sinking in, that apart from three months working on corrections, I am actually done, I have survived the PhD, and I was ready to celebrate.’
I headed out a little later than planned, as I was fielding phone calls from family and friends to hear my PhD news. ‘So I ventured into the heaving Roundhouse at about half past eight, having missed the support band entirely. I weaved my way to the bar and procured a large house red ‘cos it’s post-viva Xmas time now and I am Having It Large ‘til the end of the year.’
And the Super Furry Animals were ready to celebrate too.
‘I was standing on the far right in the first few rows of the throng and had an excellent view for the most part. The lights went down, the word “GOD” was displayed on the screens back of the stage. The band came on all in white boiler suits and in the dry ice haze it appears they have teleported in directly from 1997. Straight into “God! Show Me Magic” and bloody hell, they did.’
2016 had been a year in which I threw myself wholeheartedly into rediscovering my love for live music, and of all the gigs I’d been to over the course of the year, this one felt the most like gigs of old. ‘Jostling for space beside the thronging moshpit, as intrepid travellers push past to get in and weary casualties stagger out for some air. The Furries sounded and looked completely unchanged, with song after song of unhinged melodic mayhem.’
For the first few songs I found myself with a gig companion. ‘I was joined by an enthusiastic youngish man who apologised for pushing in front of me and promised he’d only stay there for three tunes, so we swayed along to “Something 4 The Weekend” together.’
He departed after “Hometown Unicorn”, and then it was the ‘undying melancholy beauty‘ of “Gathering Moss”, which I’ve found myself once again dazzled by very recently at Gruff Rhys’s solo show in May. That was undoubtedly a highlight, but there was soimething even better to come. ‘I wondered what could top that, not knowing the order of “Fuzzy Logic” exactly. So it was a complete thrill when it turned out to be “If You Don’t Want Me To Destroy You”. I think that was the highlight of the whole night for me, hollering “Gravity! you just hold me down so quietly!” along with the band and the enthralled thousands.’
So that was the end of side one of “Fuzzy Logic”, and the band had a unique way of punctuating their set. ‘What I haven’t mentioned is the witty use of signs, big signs to indicate “Fuzzy Logic” vs “Radiator” or “Side One” vs “Side Two”, brought out here. I had a twinge then that these 20th anniversary gigs are something of an end-of-era experience. Bands of today will not be able to punctuate their 20th anniversary gigs in this way.’
When Side Two of “Fuzzy Logic” – ‘a whirl of singalong bopping‘ – was done, and we had duly obliged to the signs reading “Prolonged Applause” and “Ape Shit”, it was time for the album that for me was the Main Event of the evening. “Radiator” is an album that I listened to obsessively in 1997, often putting it on my discman in the early hours of the morning before I headed to work in the latter half of that year. I was quite emotional at the thought of hearing it live in full.
‘In a tiny moment there was the twinkling refrain of “Furryvision” and I have to admit, I got a tiny bit teary, hearing that. “Radiator” is of course an album of storming tune after storming tune. Perhaps this album is just too etched on my psyche, for I was slightly put out at times, when a guitar sound or keyboard effect didn’t quite match the version in my head. Nevertheless, it was a special experience, hearing this album that soundtracked many a wintry ‘97 morning in full.’
And the gig, of course, ended in spectacular, storming style.
‘After the rousing yet plaintive “Mountain People” Gruff held up the sign that said “Radiator” and we all erupted with love and then, the inevitable storming closer “The Man Don’t Give A Fuck” and the mosh got real. At its end they of course reappeared dressed as yeti and brought the song to a shrieking technomonster close.’
Reflecting on this gig the next day, there was only one word that seemed to aptly describe how I felt about the Super Furry Animals.
‘I have been trying to come up with words to describe how SFA made me feel last night, and one word seems to describe it best: warmth. The was a huge wave of warmth emanating from the stage and it radiated though the crowd and we sent it back to the band with interest. I could not help but fall in love again with this unassumingly brilliant band. I felt a sense of belonging within their whimsically off-kilter musical landscapes that I could never feel at eg a Kula Shaker gig, no matter how storming. Just one or two parallel universes away from here, they’re my favourite band of all time, and I felt that universe bleeding through last night.’
I still had one more gig ahead of me in 2016, but in many ways this shows feels like the fitting end to my gigging life that year. I had made a conscious effort to rekindle the love for gigs that I’d had twenty years previously, and here at this night, my past and present selves merged completely in the joy of live music and love for this most wonderful band. Super Furry Animals may currently be on hiatus, and while I cannot feel too sad about that given that it gives us time to revel in Gruff’s stunning solo music, I truly hope that this 2016 night of outright celebration and joy will not turn out to be my last ever Super Furry Animals gig.
Categories: All the gigs of my life