Contrary to what most of the blogosphere would have you believe, The Arcade Fire shows did not constitute the only worthy NYC gigs this week. Practically slipping under the radar was a rare solo performance from Gruff Rhys, frontman for completely friggin' awesome Welsh popsters Super Furry Animals. That last collection of adjectives can give you a fairly good concept of my considerable love for this band, and in terms of making inventive British pop albums that manage to be cohesive and yet crammed with singles, no other UK act from the late 90's, early 00's has come close. They've released six full length albums since 1996, and while you really should purchase every one, the recently released singles comp. Songbook is a good place for neophytes to get infected (but if its unavailable, buy Radiator instead).
The show was at Tonic, and was billed as one of the first in what I hope is a number of benefit shows to raise dough for the venue's several problems. Gruff just released an all Welsh language solo record in the UK, but it's not currently set for a U.S. release (although pretty easy to find on your choice of P2P software). The setup consisted of him and a guitar, a handful of crappy 80's synths, an electric gutiar tuner (aka-"electric bagpipes"), and a sampler. Even better than his cheery pop songs was his banter in between those songs; translating his Welsh lyrics, discussing how he plays his left-handed guitar right handed, passing the mic to the audience to get sampled barnyard noises, entering and leaving to a horrendous 80's synth take on "Just the Way You Are"....the man possesses a low key charm and self-deprecating manner that's impossible to dislike. Practically everything was off of his new Welsh record; the exceptions being the Roman Roads song off of SFA's Mwng album, and an English language number called "Colonize the Moon," which was akin to the acoustic portion of "No Sympathy" off of Rings Around the World and may or may not be an unreleased SFA song. The evening was clearly helped by my party being in the front row- part of the fun being from watching Gruff fiddle with his myriad machines- but it was as charming a performance as last night's Arcade Fire gig was intense. The new Super Furries disc supposedly hits in May. Be afraid, be very afraid.
Note the football scarf