Super Furry Animals - Cardiff University Great Hall
Dressed like mad scientists in white boiler suits, the previously MIA Welshmen unleash a dizzying blur of frantic psych pop as their comeback gathers pace
For a band with such a forward-thinking outlook as Super Furry Animals, it seemed initially surprising that the main reason behind their first tour in six years is to mark a couple of anniversaries.
However, the dates – which begin officially tonight inside a sweaty university hall in the city the Furries regard as home – were booked to plug the 15th anniversary reissue of their Welsh language album ‘Mwng’, as well as marking 20 years since their first EP. It’s an appropriate time to remind people of the synapse-shredding brilliance of one of the UK’s best ever groups – who formed in 1993 and went on hiatus between 2010-2014 – especially as there remains a nagging feeling that their excellence was taken somewhat for granted. As singer Gruff Rhys told NME recently “it’s nice to remind people what we’ve done” – namely recording a peerless back catalogue and developing a reputation for performing astonishing gigs that in the past have featured headbanging yetis, dancing monsters and mobile phones, 40ft inflatable bears and making an entrance on a golf buggy. They inspire utter devotion from their followers, whose giddy excitement can be sensed the minute you walk in. There is frenzied chatter about what will they play, and in the end so strong is their back catalogue that tonight’s 25-song set leaves out some of their biggest hit singles without anybody being bothered in the slightest. Many fans are here with their kids, most of whom have never witnessed the Furries’ magical mayhem.
Greeted by a deafening roar, the band are dressed like mad scientists in white boiler suits. A dizzying blur of frantic psych pop (a demented ‘Do Or Die’, the naughty glam of ‘Bad Behaviour’) dominates the early part of the set. The partisan crowd show they share their idols’ commendable attention to detail by singing along heartily to intricate harmonies, crunchy guitar riffs and even the brass parts, which pleasingly embellish the dreamy ‘Demons’ and ‘Northern Lites’’ crazy calypso. This back-to-back sequence kicks off a laid-back mid-section dominated by a batch of songs off ‘Mwng’.
In an act of typical perversity, SFA didn’t tour that record in their native country at the time, so bar the odd occasion (such as at their Bethesda show in 2003), the Welsh public hadn’t had much of a chance to hear this material played live. In particular the keening, strained beauty of ‘Gwreiddiau Dwfn/Mawrth Oer Ar Y Blaned Neifon’ is enormously affecting, a reminder that, for all the inventiveness behind the band’s approach to live performance, it’s the more simple moments that are arguably the most rewarding. Having said that, no one’s complaining about the touches that embellish the rest of an unforgettable evening – these boys don’t skimp on the lights and lasers. When perennial closer – a frenzied, monumental ‘The Man Don’t Give A Fuck’ – sees the welcome reappearance of the yetis, we’re reminded just how much we’ve missed them all. See them this summer, because SFA’s past still sounds like the future.