‘Thus Spoke Zarathustra’ strikes up, but not the bombastic orchestral Space Odyssey version. This version sounds like it’s been recorded on just a cardboard box and toy trumpet. It’s the perfect intro music for Gruff Rhys, solo Super Furry Animal and purveyor of an understated grandeur with an undercurrent of great import.
Onto the roadhouse-style JägerHaus stage he wombles, dishing out shots of Jagermeister from his backstage stash to the grasping throng and settling in with an acoustic guitar to tell tales of despots, wars and romance like a campfire singalong designed to give you the worst possible nightmares.
Here’s ‘Frontier Man’, a gentle Eagles pony trek of a tune about the rise of Trump and his fellow frontier fascists. Here’s what Gruff introduces as “a feel-good number” – a motorik easy listening twinkler called ‘Cycle Of Violence’ that traces the link between western warmongering and terrorism and builds to a chilling, febrile scream.
Running the gamut of ear-caressing sounds from Bacharach to Morricone and even as far, on ‘Candylion’ as a stroll down Sesame Street, Gruff delivers his apocalyptic visions with an unruffled, deadpan charm; “you and I can conquer all the negative vibes,” he coos on ‘Negative Vibes’ and he’s talking to his listeners as much as his lover.
There are moments of mania – ‘Sensations In The Dark’ comes on like a rock’n’roll hula rampage and ‘Gyrru Gyrru Gyrru’ grows from a repetitive country groove, via some funk organ and a spot of hip-hop back-and-forth between Gruff and a backing vocalist in Welsh, into an all-out sonic pile-up as Gruff wanders the stage giving out more Jäger shots and holding up signs saying “APE SHIT” and “TAX TAX THE RICH” and drawings of a vampire (okay, a puppet of explorer John Evans).
Giving way to a finale of ‘If We Were Words (We Would Rhyme)’, it draws us, slightly bruised, back to the camp-fire to sway us into the sunset. Turns out we needed those shots after all.