Testosterone permeates the O2 as we revisit the 90s with many furry-faced beer guzzling men amongst a handful of females to see Super Furry Animals reminisce with their debut 1996 record “Fuzzy Logic” followed by the 1997 album “Radiator” in full, in order and back to back.
Five Welsh mop topped men rock on stage wearing white boiler suits. The lights glow then strobe, change from blue to white to red and copious amounts of smoke mask the ages of the band. Their performance catapults the crowd back twenty years and no one could be more alive. Frontman Gruff Rhys plays his guitar left-handed and upside down as the crowd is pumped and jumping to ‘God! Show Me Magic’. His heart-warming thick Welsh accent introduces the playlist and adds ‘if I don’t speak to you again before we finish tonight, this is called Fuzzy Birds’. The backing vocals are a reincarnation of the Bee Gees behind Rhys’s effected lead vocal travelling upscale and the crowd sways and joins in singing ‘i’ve got something to tell you / I can harness your feel’.
Three screens like slot machines alternate images which change from G O D to a hamster running on its wheel. The organ resonates with trumpet and piano on top of the Britpop two guitar, bass and drums setup. The band move little but the images and lights are plenty to entertain the adoring audience. By the time ‘Frisbee’ is launched, pints are spilled as the crowd accompany SFA singing ‘oo-oo-aa-aa!’. Dynamically, it is a rollercoaster that nobody wants to get off. As Rhys earlier promised, they pause saying ‘we’ve reached the end of side one, it’s very exciting’. This is after they have entered dreamland moving from ‘Hometown Unicorn’ to ‘Gathering Moss’ lightly textured with synth, spanish virtuoso guitar and delightfully layered vocals.
‘Side 2’ signs and war tank imagery are displayed as guitars are changed and SFA sway towards the sound of Blur particularly in Rhys’s singing technique. Things become spooky with synth resounding a Theremin platforming a classic rock electric guitar solo. Pac-Man moves around the screens as a heavy wall of sound is built and the whole band belt ‘da da da da doo!’.‘Mario Man’ is the come down with a smooth bass running, chorus piano and vocals processed alike to ‘A Day In The Life’. The crowd know the words no matter how nonsensical and an answer machine message from former member Rhys Ifans is played.
Their influences are a cauldron of Beatles, Blur, Stone Roses, Oasis, Bee Gees and Radiohead. As “Fuzzy Logic” ends one guy is on someone’s shoulders, ears are ringing and throats are sore. Stage signs state ‘Ape Shit’, ‘Prolonged Applause’ and most importantly ‘A Thought For Howard’ in honour of the late drug smuggler Howard Marks who spent his last ten years living in Leeds and the album artwork being photos of him.
“Radiator” begins and things become even more psychedelic. The tremolo resounds in the keys and string sounds from the synth and we are floating on candy floss. The album progresses with Queen-like lead guitar and a vocoder lessening lyrical importance and it is easy to see how Alan McGee was under the impression they were singing in their first language of Welsh when he first signed them. Rhys plays a piano with large animal horns on and to the right of the stage there is a leering mouse/ram figure. Guitarist Huw Bunford asks if there are ‘any hairdressers?’ and pictures of scissors appear after one of the best songs of the night, ‘Play It Cool’ with Bunford and Rhys in perfect harmony. Glow sticks trim the transparent drum kit accompanying everyone marching to the beat. ‘Bass Tuned To D.E.A.D.’ is a tear-jerker with the O2 full of men with locked arms around each other shouting ‘With my bow and my arrow / I will aim towards my atlas / And where I hit i’ll go’ melting into ‘Down A Different River’.
After a mad yet controlled pit of sound with so much going on I could write a novel, one monotonous synth note is held as a super devotee next to me yells ‘they usually come back on in Yeti costumes’. Low and behold, SFA re-enter stage as Yetis holding their guitars in the air with ‘Thank You’ signs and announcing they are ‘still here, we don’t give a fuck about anybody else’.
From “Fuzzy Logic” to “Radiator”, Super Furry Animals straddle so many genres and take listeners to outer-space tripping on marshmallows and riding unicorns. There’s a continuous tale flowing through the two albums but the plot is more than obscured. I may have been 5 years old the first time round but I feel blessed to have shared the journey back in time with these super fans for a spectacular performance reeking of nostalgia, beer and magic.