Super Furry Animals @ Somerset House, 18 July 2009

Saturday, 25 July 2009, 0:54 | Category : Live reviews
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There were a few things missing from the Super Furry Animals gig at Somerset House on Saturday. The first and most obvious one for me was Mrs Growl. This was notable, because in all the many, many times I’ve seen the Super Furries in the past 12 years, the constant factor was the woman who is now my wife. She had already seen them several times before we met, and as we bonded over a shared love of music, SFA were one of the bands we loved (and still love) the most. A combination of other social engagements and illness meant I went on my own. It felt odd.

There’s also less stuff happening at their gigs these days. Gone are the silly outfits of old. No shiny boiler suits, yeti costumes, giant alien creatures, or any of the other wearable gimmicks of the past. It’s been a while since we’ve seen the centurions coming on the play the trumpet part of Demons. And where are the video shows, or the big screens that accompanied the gig the last time we saw them at this venue. Things are a bit more stripped down these days. Gruff’s props are a bit more rudimentary, limited to some large cardboard placards bearing words like ‘Applause’ and ‘Thank You’. At least we knew that the gig was over when the one with ‘The End’ was placed in front of the drum kit.

I think there may have been a few people missing too. The Somerset House courtyard was fairly full, but the gig didn’t sell out. Last time I was here, around the release of Love Kraft, tickets disappeared pretty sharpish, but not anymore. I’m not saying that SFA are in decline, but they’re not as big as they were. However if this means they’ll be playing smaller venues soon, that’s fine by me. As I stood near the back, trying to avoid the busy thoroughfares to the bar and the loos, and the idle chatter, the alfresco loveliness of Somerset House couldn’t quite compensate for that feeling of dissatisfaction that you get at big gigs. You pay more money for a worse experience. Why would anyone want to do that?

The crowd seemed to be missing some passion too. After the band’s exit, most people hung around to see if the band would re-appear, even although the Furries never do encores. But if the band were relying on audience noise to entice them back on stage, they should have been running away from the venue. Rarely have so many people made such a half-assed attempt at showing enthusiasm. But I’m not knocking them. I wasn’t cheering either, after an underwhelming experience, probably the first time I’ve left a SFA gig with a shrug rather than a smile. Maybe it was the frame of mind I was in. Maybe it was the above factors. Maybe it was my general apathy towards Dark Days/ Light Years (which naturally made up most of the set). Maybe all these and more. I’m not really sure, but I didn’t really enter into the spirit of things till near the end, and then it was too late.

After hearing the new songs live, I remain agnostic. Pric sounded pretty good, all rumbling bass and spacey rocking, but most of the rest, despite a lot of riffing by a band that seemed to be enjoying themselves, just didn’t do very much for me. Even the oldies seemed a little flat, only serving to remind of past glories. However, there were some good back catalogue selections, and even some surprises. For quite a while now, I’ve been hoping for a new gig-closing trick. The extended techno versions of The Man Don’t Give a Fuck got a bit tiresome a few years back, so it was a pleasant surprise to see the shortest, most guitar-abusing version of the song I’ve ever seen. Of course this suits the current hirsute and rockin’ Furries, and they gave it their best shot. No sooner than the shock of the abrupt ending passed, another one came. They had chosen to close on Keep the Cosmic Trigger Happy, the final track from 1999’s Guerilla, which I’d never heard them do live before. That was almost enough to rescue the gig for me.

It’s not like I’m about to fall out of love with the five Welsh wonders any time soon. In another time, under different circumstances, in a better venue, with a better current album, I’ll no doubt thrill to them again. But at the end of this gig, under the darkened cloudy summer evening, it was a little hmmmm and off to the tube home.

mp3: Super Furry Animals - God! Show Me Magic
mp3: Super Furry Animals - Demons

I’ve actually had just as much pleasure listening to the gig’s setlist on Spotify this week. It’s here for your listening pleasure.

2 Comments for “Super Furry Animals @ Somerset House, 18 July 2009”

  1. 1albert

    I was there and the part of the crowd I was in was dancing, singing along and cheering the whole time. In fact, the atmosphere in general was great. Most of the set wasn’t from the new album… they only played about 6 or 7 songs off it (which was my only dissapointment because the new album is ace) and they pulled out loads of classics. I’ve seen the band about 15 times or something and this was definitely in the top 3 SFA performances.

    Worth noting as well that the sound was amazing. The bass of Slow Life was MASSIVE.

    Were we at a different concert or something?

  2. 2The Daily Growl

    Nah, what I thought of the gig probably says more about me than what it was like for most people. I arrived late, on my own, and genrally wasn’t really in the mood. It did look like people were having a good time further into the crowd, but out where I was it was just polite observation at best.

    I was probably a bit too down on it, but some things remain true.

    1. I just don’t like big gigs, so am never going to really liek something of this size. I’ve seen them several times at big indoor venues too. None of them are among my favourite SFA gigs.
    2. I still don’t get on with the new album, and the 6 or 7 songs seemed to last forever
    3. I’m still pretty sure the cheering at the end was a bit half-hearted. Maybe it was because no-body really believed that they were going to come back.
    4. There was no Receptacle for the Respectable. The first time I’ve seen them in years when they haven’t played that
    5. The ending of the gig was the best in years. the 15-minute techno workout was amazing when I first heard it, but after almost a decade, it wears thim. So full marks on that.

    Like I said, there were a load of reasons why my experience was different from yours. I’ve seen them about the same number of times and this was probably in the bottom two. Still, music….eb?

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