It’s twenty years since The Super Furry Animals last played The Leadmill, thirteen years since my friend Nibbsy introduced me to the band’s idiosyncratic charms (needless to say, I became an instant fan) and five years since I met the wonderful woman with whom I am celebrating the fifth anniversary of meeting for the first time on a train platform in Brighton, by attending this evening’s gig. Neither of us have been to a Super Furry Animals gig before, and lets just say that expectation is pretty damn high, not just for us, but for the rest of the packed-out audience too.
The Super Furries troop out wearing white hazmat suits to an uproarious reception. A lesser act would hit the stage with a loud, high energy number, but Super Furry Animals know their audience, and draw them in steadily with the gloriously meandering “Slow Life”, complete with a thin fog of dry ice and a well judged light display. It’s easy to over-do it with the lighting in a venue like The Leadmill, but this evening SFA’s lighting crew are putting on a display that would make Liquid Len and his Lens Men proud. Sound wise it was spot on too, not always an easy task in The Leadmill, but this evening the sound levels were as good as any I’ve heard at this venue.
Actually, that’s a point, why are The Super Furries playing a venue as small as The Leadmill? True, they haven’t put out an album since 2009’s Dark Days / Light Years, but this evening The Leadmill is rammed to the roof, and they could potentially have sold out somewhere far bigger if they had wanted to. Knowing what they are capable of has always been a strength of The Super Furries though, and tonight they played the best gig they could have done in front of a sold out crowd of adoring fans.
Always adept at blending upbeat floor-fillers with mellower numbers, The Super Furry Animals are absolutely on point this evening, offering up spot-on versions of “Juxtaposed With U” (surely the finest hymn for world peace mankind has ever received), a room-bouncing “Golden Retriever” and a tear-prompting “Hello Sunshine”. Other highlights included an unexpected and oddly emotional rendition of “Run! Christian, Run!”, a searing “Do or Die” and a singalong of “If You Don’t Want Me To Destroy You”. The band’s sense of humour remains to the fore as well, with Gruff Rhys apologising for the fact that Paul McCartney was not in attendance to perform the ‘vegetable solo’ for “Receptacle for the Respectable” and throughout the show they hold up prompt cards for the audience to ‘applaud’ or sometimes ‘applaud louder’. Not that they need them. If any band don’t need to beg their audience for applause, it’s the Super Furry Animals.
Tonight’s gig closes with a suitably show-stopping version of the glorious wig-out that is “The Man Don’t Give a Fuck”, which couldn’t have gone down better with the audience if Walter Becker and Donald Fagen themselves had joined the band on stage in their yeti outfits, and with one last prompt card imploring the audience to resist false encores, they are gone, leaving us exhausted and feeling on top of the fucking world.
It is 23 years since the Super Furry Animals formed, and while tonight’s light show bounced off more shiny heads than it used to (my own included), the band themselves show no sign of ageing or letting their creativity dim. Instead they remain among the very elite of all the British guitar groups that rose to prominence in the 90s. Tonight SFA have reminded us that, unlike so many of their contemporaries, they, along with the likes of Radiohead, the Manic Street Preachers, Teenage Fanclub and Supergrass, have created a unique songbook which remains unrivalled by the passage of time. Just like the band themselves. They’re still super, and they are certainly still furry.