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Gruff Rhys - St David's Hall, Cardiff - 5th October 2011 (Live Review)

Thursday, 06 October 2011 Written by Dave Ball
Gruff Rhys - St Davids Hall, Cardiff - 5th October 2011 (Live Review)

One of the most eccentric and innovative people in music, Super Furry Animals front man Gruff Rhys is now into his third solo album and the resulting tour rolled into Cardiff yesterday. ‘Hotel Shampoo’ was inspired by the collection of miniature bathroom bottles he’d collected through his years of touring. The resulting video of him building the hotel shampoo was typical Gruff and the live show, as you would expect is equally random.

As usual ‘Y Niwl’ provide support before returning to the stage to fill their role as Gruff’s backing band. Translating to ‘The Fog’ in English the four piece instrumental act provide a half hour set of twanging guitars and lilting melodies. It sounds a bit like the soundtrack to a Western movie blended with The Coral set on high speed dubbing and is thoroughly enjoyable.

After a theatrical introduction to the Hotel Shampoo over the PA system Gruff shuffles on stage and breaks straight into a set that runs for just shy of two hours, covering the entire breadth of his three solo albums. Early highlights include ‘The Court Of King Arthur’ from his second album ‘Candylion’, a rolling rocker that shows he’s not just about Welsh language and random beeps in his solo music, he still writes great, straightforward rock songs too.

‘In A House With No Mirrors (You’ll Never Get Old)’ is taken from one of Gruff’s many side projects, this one a collection with Tony Da Gatorra and contains guitars so scuzzy if Jack White walked in he’d be ashamed that someone was doing the White Stripes better than he does backed up by a thundering drum track that quite literally has the theatres’ seats shaking.

Introducing ‘Pwdin Wy 1 & 2’ as “a two part love song. In part one things are good, then bad. In part two it gets worse” the skills of not only Gruff’s way with lyrics but also the talent of Y Niwl as a backing band shine through, the two tracks combining for around ten minutes worth of aural pleasure.

ImageWhat follows is a moment typically Gruff. Inviting on “a very special guest”, Rene Griffiths takes the stage direct from Patagonia. Griffiths was the subject of Gruff’s 2009 film ‘Seperado!’ where he toured Patagonia (a small, Welsh speaking region of Argentina). In traditional dress Griffiths takes a seat centre stage and plays a wonderful Spanish guitar interlude for a first song mixing both Spanish and Welsh language before following with ‘Heno, Mae’n Bwrw Cwrw’ which, for those of you who don’t speak Welsh translates to ‘Tonight, it is raining beer’.

Returning to the stage wearing his power ranger head (the red one if you’re curious) the performance continues. ‘Ni Yw Y Byd’ is an uplifting song about everybody coming together to improve things (We Are The World) and, while a bit corny, when delivered in Gruff’s unique style it’s quite sweet.

.The main set finishes up with a rattling version of ‘Cycle Of Violence’, the ever changing back drop now flashing manga style images of characters that look like they’ve jumped straight from a Street Fighter game before ‘Hotel Shampoo’s’ first single ‘Shark Ridden Waters’ precedes Gruff and Y Niwl leaving the stage to a loop of birds singing.

.The encore takes place mostly with Gruff sat in an aeroplane seat at centre stage for ‘Skylon!’. An epic track that builds and builds towards a huge crescendo as Gruff screams the title down the microphone before the big finish and a quiet “Diolch yn fawr, thank you very much” as they leave the stage.

A man who has been such a creative force in his near 15 years in the music business this set shows that behind all of the gimmicks he is still writing brilliant, progressive pop music. If you’ve never seen Gruff before make sure you catch the end of this or his next tour, it’s an experience you’ll never forget and certainly won’t regret.

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