review archive

Super Furry Animals – People’s Festival Hall 1st October 2004

So, I was just going to stick a lovely Underexposed photo up here with a comment along the lines of ‘Woo Gruff’s had his hair cut. Hmmmm…’ But no, what with them releasing a singles compilation (volume one, mind) now is as good a time as any to tarry a while and contemplate the mighty splendour of the Super Furry Animals.

Tonight’s celebration of all things furry is entitled ‘Lightning Fryday’. As Gruff later explains onstage, SFA, being admirably republican, wanted to rename the Royal Festival Hall the People’s Festival Hall, but the staff at the RFH ‘said no ‘cos we’ll get the sack’. We wander into the PFH foyer and ponder a motley selection of old SFA t-shirts and random posters advertising their past records. This, apparently, is ‘an exhibition of SFA memorabilia’. Frankly it’s a bit half-arsed. I could have set up a better ‘exhibition’. I’ve got a flier from their first EVAH! London gig at the Water Rats with ‘Wales Takes Drugs in Psychic Defence’ printed on it. My friend Mat has (had probably) the set list from this gig where after the final song it says ‘Get wasted yeah!’ There’ve been loads of SFA badges down the years that could be displayed here in a pleasing manner, too. Gah! Popart, it’s not as easy as it looks.

'Errrrr...' Moving on, we ensconce ourselves in front of the Ballroom (oooh! state of you!) stage for an acoustic ‘set’ by Gruff and Bunf. This consists of Gruff announcing the line-up for tonight as Bunf giggles, they manage to turn the whole thing into an ad-libbed ‘song’ hastily entitled ‘The Ballad of Level 5’. We get an explanation as to why the remaining ‘Radiator’ era inflatable bear is nowhere to be seen – it wouldn’t fit indoors and when they tried putting it on the roof of Queen Elizabeth Hall it nearly blew away to become skewered on Norman Foster’s gherkin (it’s a building). They then strum their way through ‘Fire In My Heart’ and shuffle off somewhat shame-faced. This is all unutterably ace.

Next, we sway gently as Richard James strums delicate folky tunes that are reminiscent of Gorky’s more wistful moments. This is unsurprising as Mr James is in Gorky’s. We bypass the opportunity to enter Howard Marks’ confessional booth (and have the resultant discussion with Wales’ favourite ex-drug-dealer broadcast live on a huge screen in the auditorium). Instead we take our seats (row X cheers) wandering how everyone’s going to deal with dancing without toppling headfirst over the row in front.

Super Furries are magnifique. They play a set of two halves. First a selection of quieter, softer songs. This works well, allowing you to sit back comfortably and listen properly without fidgeting. They start with the thoroughly gorgeous ‘Demons’ (the fancy dress brass players wearing monk’s cowls this time). Aaaah, that bit in the middle where we all float away into a melancholy mariachi sunset, still gets me every time. There’s the sparkling, mossy ‘Nythod Cacwn’ that always makes me think of boat trips; ye olde ‘Hometown Unicorn’ transporting me back to those early gigs before SFA had whatever it is they suddenly got* that transformed them into such a skyscraping live band. We sit in our seats luxuriating in the sound, like wriggling our toes under the duvet on a Saturday morning. Oh, and then they play the sublime ‘Presidential Suite’ and it’s really hard not to blub like a big baby, especially during the ‘When we met/There were fireworks in the sky/Sparkling like dragonflies’ line. I hurriedly sip my ‘special’ coca-cola. This is the good thing about the Festival Hall (as well as the marvy interior design), the nice old ladies on the door don’t rummage in your handbag, so you can bring-a-bottle. Cheers.
(* I can tell you exactly when this happened – 30th October 1997 at The Forum, they were just suddenly storming, essential.)

There’s a fifteen minute interval, everyone storms the bar, then everyone storms back in ready to STAND UP for the exuberant second half of the set. Lots of people bundle dahn the front, but it’s a long way down too many steps so we settle for dancing about happily within our row, every now and then making a foray into the aisle when we feel the need to add bolder moves in order to fully express our joy at the sonic loveliness on offer. How we chortle as an overly refreshed friend turns to the stranger beside him and mimes along fervently to the ‘I’m not in love with you’ bit on ‘Juxtaposed With You.’ Super Furries’ singles – you have to admit every one’s a winner, ‘The International Language Of Screaming’, ‘Hermann Loves Pauline’, ‘(Drawing) Rings Around The World), ‘Do Or Die’, glamtastic hair-banging ‘Golden Retriever’, point-in-the-air ‘God! Show Me Magic’, clapalonga ‘Play It Cool’. But what’s this? No ‘Northern Lights’? Instead the eternal live fave ‘Calimera’ (a b-side!) is brought out for a spin, complete with ‘I feel like chicken tonite’ lyric (the aisle is needed for this one).

I feel like chicken tonite
We get an alarming ‘Receptacle For The Respectable’ and a woozy ‘Hello Sunshine’. I’m thrilled to incandescence when they play ‘Ice Hockey Hair’. There’s a palpable sense of mass euphoria, driven to its peak as a teasing intro to, ‘The Man Don’t Give A Fuck’ begins. Can one ever tire of jumping up and down to this song? Of course not. Just like one (if one has any sense whatsoever) can never tire of Super Furry Animals. Roll on volume two.
[top of page]