Sunday, February 3, 2008

"Hello sunshine" or "We ride tornadoes, we eat tomatoes"

God bless the Welsh. They’ve given us Christian Bale, Peter Greenaway, and (to a lesser extent) Catherine Zeta-Jones. But more importantly, Wales’ greatest export found its way to Austin, TX. SUPER FURRY ANIMALS @ EMO’S!!!

I had never seen SFA live before, but I have quite a few of their albums. Musically, they’re weird, playful, poppy, and insanely fun. Sort of like a sonic equivalent to a Terry Gilliam film. I was expecting a weird and wild ride.

Canadian drum/bass/electro-noodling dancerock outfit Holy Fuck opened. I was pretty excited about seeing them. Their album got good reviews, and they sounded interesting. Unfortunately watching four guys play the same basic song over and over again on a board of knobs and levers got old pretty quick. They weren’t bad, just dull, which was surprising and disappointing from a band called Holy Fuck.

Before I get into the SFA show, I want to preface this with the fact that I love these guys. I was star-struck before they even took the stage. So my opinion is about as far from objective as can be. These guys could have taken the stage, shit themselves while doing nothing but Rod Stewart covers, and I would have dug it.

The Welshman took the stage, donned their gear, but lead singer Gruff Rhys was curiously absent. After a little instrumental opening, Mr. Rhys took the stage wearing an oversized Power Rangers helmet. He paced/stumbled (visibility couldn’t have been too good in that thing) around the stage, before grabbing the mic and placing it over the left-eye portion of the mask’s visor. He proceeded to sing out of what appeared to be his left eye for a couple of songs, eventually taking the helmet off to the roar of the crowd.

The Power Rangers helmet was pretty much the extent to the craziness. The band was surprisingly tame in terms of stage show, but it didn’t matter. They tested the limits of Emo’s less-than-great sound system. Playing loud, delicate, beautiful pop music. These guys have been doing this for 15 years, and you can tell that they know what they’re doing. They didn’t need crazy yeti suits on stage to put on a fantastic show. A personal high point came early on with their rousing rendition of “Do or Die”.

The show managed to hit on just about all their albums. I heard some Fuzzy Logic, some Guerrilla, some Rings Around the World, and so on. The only thing I didn’t hear (and was legitimately disappointed about) was something off of their all-Welsh album Mwng. Hell, just something in Welsh would have been nice, but whatever. I was having too much fun to really think about it until the morning after.

Other highlights included their performance of their new “songs” called “Earth” and “Earth II”. When they were about to play them, they came with a lofty introduction (“This is the first time we have ever played this song in Texas…”), as well as instructions to the audience to “assume the position”. The “position” in question was to take your hands, palms out, and place them on the top of your head, so your fingers are in the air, resembling moose antlers (according to Gruff Rhys the position “helps with the acoustics, sending the sound all the way to the back”). The songs themselves (“Earth” and “Earth II” were basically the same) consisted of the lead guitarist and Gruff harmonizing in super high-pitched voices, repeating the word “earth” over and over again for 40 seconds. A grand and silly joke. The kind of thing that puts an enormous smile on my face.

Also of note was the SFA online set list. Fans could go to the Super Furry Animals’ website before the show, select their tour date, and then from a list of songs they could vote for the one that they would most want to hear at the show. Towards the end of the Emo’s performance, Gruff announced the winner of that show’s set list vote (unfortunately, “Northern Lites” didn’t win, and I don’t actually remember what did win). The actual performance of the song wasn’t noteworthy, but the whole concept struck me as very cool.

All in all, I loved it. My friend Matt, who attended the show with me, was less impressed. He basically said, “that was pretty good, but hardly the transcendent experience I was looking for.” Fair enough. Like I said at the outset, I love these guys. Have loved them for a long time, and this is the first time I’ve gotten to see them live. It was a foregone conclusion I was going to love it, just a matter of how much I was going to love it. And I loved it. A lot.

PS. To see pictures of Gruff in his helmet and the audience assuming the position, click here. Those pictures are from a different performance, but it doesn’t matter. You get the idea.


Matt said...

Wow, I'm a dick

Scott said...

Well, to be fair I may have over sold the show a bit with my two solid months of pestering. That guy from the Free Press didn't help when he called them "transcendent". Your entitled to your own opinion, even if it is wrong.