Review: Gruff Rhys at The Rescue Rooms

Gruff

“Sensations in the Dark”

I’m not quite sure how to describe this as the word “gig” doesn’t quite do it justice. However, that’s fitting as Gruff is touring last year’s multimedia epic American Interior (“album” doesn’t cut it as it was simultaneously an album, a book, a film and an app) Similarly, this is both a gig and a slideshow as Gruff takes us through the life of John Evans (AKA Don Juan Evans AKA Jean Evans) in between songs.

And it works. It probably shouldn’t but some excellent music played fantastically well and Gruff’s wonderfully dry sense of humour mesh together really well. And Gruff is a funny guy, describing how they brought John Evans back to life using the same technology used in Jurassic Park (hang those who tell you that it’s a puppet in a tri-corner hat!) and claiming that the hovel that Evans moved to with his family only had dial up internet (in the 18th Centaury)

The story takes Evans from Wales to London to the New World in search of a tribe of Welsh speaking Indians. As well as interweaving songs from the American Interior album, we also get some older classics added to the story. Shark Ridden Waters now apparently describes a boat voyage taken by Evans while If We Were Words We Would Rhyme is repurposed to describe one of his friendships on his adventure.

Some ninety minutes into the gig, Gruff then jokes that the preceding songs and slideshow as the introduction and says that the gig can now start. The excellent 100 Unread Messages then closes the set before a five-song encore that includes some older material such as Candylion and Gyrru Gyrru Gyrru before closing with Year of the Dog.

While Gruff is an excellent frontman, really engaging the audience, he has also put together a really good touring band. On guitar, bass and keyboards are three members of Welsh surf-pop band Y Niwl and on drums is Kliph Scurlock, former of The Flaming Lips. Scurlock produces a drumming master class here, why Wayne Coyne let him leave the Lips, I’ll never know.

If I have just one slight reservation it’s that if I had written a song as epic as Sklon! then I would end every set with it.
With that said, I’ve seen the Super Furry Animals live four times, Gruff solo three times and Neon Neon as well and he has never failed to impress.

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