Review: Gruff Rhys at Royal Festival Hall
Published on July 10th, 2012 | Jonny Abrams
Rocksucker favourite Gruff Rhys returned to London’s Royal Festival Hall for a complete live airing of last year’s gorgeous Hotel Shampoo LP, the stage suitably arranged into makeshift lobby and reception areas and a cheesy announcer wishing us a pleasant stay in the plush environs of this imagined lodging. Good to see that the erstwhile Super Furry Animals front man has not jettisoned the daft humour that’s always circled around his fabulous song-craft, and indeed his canny knack for selecting support acts (in this case his surf-inclined backing band Y Niwl and the utterly wonderful Cate Le Bon, whose recent CYRK album elicited this four-quail review from yours truly).
One year on, Hotel Shampoo has retained its warm, luxurious glow, even with Rhys and Y Niwl tearing through the whole damn thing without so much as pausing for breath. This mattered little as it rarely felt too rushed to bask in, whizzing gently by in fact like a conveyor belt of reminders as to what a gosh darn lovely collection of songs this is, and whetting the appetite for an ensuing mix of material from his first two albums, his sugary sweet song for the Whale Trail iPhone game, “In a House With No Mirrors” from his 2010 album with Tony Da Gatorra The Terror of Cosmic Loneliness, and early SFA B-side/now solo set-list staple “Cryndod Yn Dy Lais”.
Various noteworthy moments: “Gwn Mi Wn” (from first solo outing Yr Atal Genhedlaeth) being moved down a key or two to incorporate an epic recorder jam, the wonderful Lisa Jen from 9 Bach pretending to preen herself during the “I recognise my neighbour / I’ve seen her on the screen” line of the still-astonishing “Skylon!” (from Rhys’s 2006 mini-masterpiece Candylion – and yes, he and Jen still sit in detached aeroplane seats for this), Rhys attempting to convey turbulence on an acoustic guitar during selfsame epic, an orange-coated (Rhys’s jacket from the “Hermann ♥’s Pauline video, SFA trainspotters?) Power Ranger stunning the hijacker, and an ecstatic finale involving Rhys pushing over a piano while the band like totally wig out.
We are delighted to confirm that our hero’s collection of audience-prompting signs remain – did our eyes deceive us, or did we see two different spellings of “woah”/”whoa”? – and that he perhaps wisely refrained from brandishing the one bearing the slogan “tax the rich” at the Royal Albert Hall. All in all, another splendid evening’s entertainment from one of the greatest songwriters of his or anyone else’s age.
Rocksucker says: Four and a Half Quails out of Five!
For more information, please visit www.gruffrhys.com