The Super Furry Animals front man stepped out alone and played songs from his concept album about collecting hotel shampoo. Bonkers as ever, then, but also brilliant.
Date: February 21, 2011
Venue: Glee Club
Gruff Rhys ambles on to the stage with his trademark hang-dog gait, dressed in a patterned knitted jumper and an unflattering grey woollen hat. He nervously shuffles his way to his keyboard in front of a civilized gathering who are seated throughout the performance in the elegant surrounds of the Glee Club.
He’s showcasing his new album, the brilliantly-titled, Hotel Shampoo – a concept referencing the mild kleptomania he developed whilst on the road with his band, the Super Furry Animals, in which he collected thousands of, yep, hotel shampoo bottles.
So, based loosely on his haul, his third solo record is played almost in its entirety. The final song from the record, Rubble Rubble, is first up, played plaintively on a keyboard, with just a record player providing the backing track.
But he’s soon joined by hard-working support band, Y Nriw (The Fog), a surf-pop instrumental four-piece who back him for the remainder of the gig.
Lush harmonies frolic playfully with saccharine melodies, particularly on the achingly beautiful Honey All Over, which could happily co-exist with anything from The Beach Boys’ classic, Pet Sounds. Sensations in the Dark, meanwhile, arches towards a spot of northern soul.
When Gruff engages with the crowd he does so with all the clumsiness of a nervous child; his cavernously deep monotone voice and strong Welsh accent so hard to decipher. When his words are audible, his deference and dry wit is endearing.
He also dips into his debut solo record, a sketchy Welsh-language album entitled Yr Atal Genhedlaeth (Prevent the Generation), and his second well-recieved sophomore effort Candylion, of which the eponymous track is an imaginative cartoon fantasy evoking childhood halcyon days.
He ends with that album’s heroic tale of a mid-air saviour who disables a bomb on a plane, the 20-minute epic, Skylon!. Despite its length, it’s never boring. Because, when all said and done, there is never a dull moment in Gruff’s extraordinary work.