Super Furry Animals : Newport City Live Arena

These men [i]do[/i] give a fuck, you know...

There are ten-foot cardboard horses and smoking volcanoes with shifty eyes either side of the stage. Singer Gruff Rhys is wearing a preposterous visor and there’s a very good chance we’re gonna witness grown men jumping around in yeti costumes later. But underneath all this elaborate wackiness, there’s a set of serious messages being relayed by [a]Super Furry Animals[/a] tonight.

Of course, it was always going to be a struggle to translate the highlights of the Furries’ latest album ‘Phantom Power’ onto the live stage. Especially given that the record is their most intimate and downbeat yet, stuffed with tear-stained ruminations on the futility of war and the messiness of relationship break-ups. Over the summer, when they played at almost every UK festival imaginable, they didn’t try that hard to push it, showcasing only a smattering of the new songs in favour of highlights from their bountiful back catalogue.

But tonight, in front of a partisan ‘home’ crowd, the likes of ‘The Piccolo Snare’, ‘Liberty Belle’ and ‘Sex, War And Robots’ (sung beautifully by guitarist Hum ‘Bunf’ Bunford) are received like old friends. It would seem the people of Newport dig a mixture of US West Coast pop, cosmic funk and warped cyber-country while digesting the rather sombre lyrical content. And why the hell wouldn’t they? However, SFA’s silliness works perfectly in sugaring the pill. The band might like playing daft, but they’re not stupid – venerable stompers ‘Do Or Die’, ‘Hermann Loves Pauline’ and a monumentally bonkers ‘Calimero’ are rolled out to stop things from getting too heavy.

Of course, SFA have spent their career asking big questions. Allied to fantastically innovative music spread across six albums, they’re now threatening to become a national institution (which isn’t something you can say about many things dressed in yeti costumes). Tonight was beyond insane – just as you’d expect – but it also revealed the true depths of this mind-altering band. These men do give a fuck, you know.

Alan Woodhouse