27 February 2008

Super Furry Animals @ Bowery Ballroom - 25 February 2008

The premise itself was immensely appealing: Super Furry Animals trade in their stadium-sized visual feast of a live show for a scaled-back club tour of America. In the process, they throw this widget up on their site and ask fans in each city to vote on that night's set list. The results? A tightened focus on the band's actual music over the bells and whistles of tours past and the day-late dollar-short realization that you're watching one of the best live bands in the world do their thing about 6 feet from where your jaw hits the floor. And to think you could have seen it three other times this past month....

Well better late than never, because Monday was the final show of their US tour and who knows when the next time Gruff, Huw, Guto, Cian, and Dafydd decide to go the way of those dueling piano guys at the corner Irish bar and take requests for the entirety of a show (or the entirety of a tour for that matter).

Taking the stage to the robotic pre-recorded intro of Phantom Power's "Slow Life", the band (minus Gruff) seamlessly blended live instrumentation with the synthetic blurps and beeps before Rhys emerged with his trademark super-sized Power Ranger helmet to officially begin the evening.

What followed was a 90-minute career-spanning set....

And perhaps the biggest payoff in being treated to such a smattering of material was - for the first time - a FULL appreciation of what amazing songwriters the Super Furries are. Seriously, all these guys do is craft top-notch, impeccable rock and roll that flirts with everything from Phil Spector-esque doo-wop (see recent single "Run-Away") to vocoder-laden slow jams (the slithery "Juxtaposed With U").

As a result, every song cast its own formidable vibe over Bowery, transforming it from a Lothario's love den during "The Gift That Keeps Giving"....

...to an anarchist's rally for the rousing "The Man Don't Give a Fuck" (picture not included).

Other highlights for me included the Beach Boys-with-balls crunch of "Rings Around the World", the always amazing "Receptacle for the Respectable" (complete with carrot-eating solo as usual), and - much to my surprise as the version on Hey Venus doesn't do much for me - "Baby Ate My Eightball", the live version of which showcased one of the slinkier rhythm guitar parts I've heard in a loooong time. It's somewhat of a shame that SFA's many and varied quirks - Power Rangers helmets, Yeti suits, pun-heavy song titles, carrot solos, funny videos, etc. - at times can overshadow their sheer mastery of the rock genre, but therein also lies the appeal. They make everything look so effortless and like some sort of improv gag that you forget how consummately professional and ridiculously talented these guys are. Monday was a powerful reminder.







Listen: "Run-Away"

Visit Super Furry Animals on MySpace

18 comments:

jgrizz said...

This show ruuuuuled. Super Furries never stop amazing me. I was initially disappointed when I heard they weren't playing with visuals, but it turned out to be great to watch them just play without the need to psynch up with video.

I'm kicking myself for only catching one of their three shows...ah well.

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