Zachary Cole Smith has overcome a multitude of problems to make this intensely powerful album
Super Furry Animals; Royal Festival Hall, London, Monday December 31
Hey Earth! It’s New Year’s Eve…
Yep, venerable Welsh pop wizards SFA have come to melt everyone’s minds again, something they have been doing with stunning regularity for over a decade now. We haven’t even got to the music yet – and there’s lots of it. SFA play three sets in the foyer’s ballroom – and, while there is lots to do and see here, it’s clear that the band are the number one attraction at an evening that feels like one of those counter-cultural ‘happenings’ old dudes and monthly music mags talk about wistfully.
Over the course of the evening, SFA play over 30 songs stretching across their entire career – a career which stalled a bit after a trio of lush, densely produced albums earlier this decade, but has undergone something of a revival after they rolled back the years with 2007’s punchy ‘Hey Venus!’. The highlights from that record are rolled out at regular intervals tonight, with the ecstatic reactions to the Motown-aping ‘Run-Away’ and the harmony-laden ‘Show Your Hand’ making it baffling that both of these pop gems failed to crack the singles chart. Audience requests are also entertained – as a result of this relaxed approach to proceedings, we are treated to the frankly terrifying dense psychedelia of 1999 B-side ‘Mrs Spector’, as well as ‘Demons’, with frontman Gruff Rhys encouraging the crowd to sing the horn parts.
And, after coming onstage to the theme from The A-Team just before the bells, following a Thunderbirds-style countdown, the band race through a blitzkrieg of their best-loved tunes that makes the first hour of 2008 a very hard one to top. The likes of ‘(Drawing) Rings Around The World’, ‘Golden Retriever’, ‘Do Or Die’ and ‘God! Show Me Magic’ make the idea of nipping outside for the riverside fireworks look as ridiculous as some of the outfits on show. SFA finish by rolling out their 20-minute-plus version of ‘The Man Don’t Give A Fuck’, and end it with a host of stage invaders dancing to nosebleed techno while wearing monster costumes and drinking champagne. It is, as Gruff Rhys later tells us, “complete chaos” everywhere – even more so among the sweaty throng, whose reaction is so hysterical it’s easy to be convinced that we are watching the world’s ultimate party band.
And, OK, it wasn’t really Amy and Blake, but tonight made anything seem possible. The party – and gig – of both 2007 and 2008.
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