Super Furry Animals @ The Leadmill
On what was perhaps the most bizarre day I’ve ever experienced in terms of weather, with the sun beaming one minute and it snowing the next, it seems fitting that one of the most expansive bands of our time should soundtrack the evening to it.
Having surmounted their position as one of the defining cult bands of the 90s, Welsh psych/folk rockers Super Furry Animals show at the Leadmill feels like one big celebration of their unique career rather than a case of going through the motions, which seems so prevalent in similar acts nowadays.
With a set spanning across their vast back catalogue, SFA bring a maniacal light show of lazers and trippy visuals as well some interesting head gear and directorial placards to the sold-out room of Sheffield’s most prestigious venue.
Despite arriving on stage twenty minutes later than scheduled and cutting crowd interaction between songs to a minimum, there’s no inclination that tonight’s show might actually just be a money-grabbing scheme at the bookend of a fabulous career.
Gruff Rhys and co. eventually arrived on stage as a heart-breaking cover of The Smiths’ ‘I Know It’s Over’ by Jeff Buckley played over the venue. It’s a somewhat disconcerting manner to begin one of the most vibrant shows of the year, but then again SFA have never been the kind to do things by the book.
A perfect set starter, the sprawling ‘Slow Life’ ends with Gruff donning a Power Rangers helmet and displaying placards during the exquisite breakdown of synths stating ‘Applause’, ‘Louder’ and then ‘Ape Shit’. The crowd duly obliges and what feels like the Jeremy Kyle Show on hallucinogenics gets under way.
The Welsh quartet proceed to demonstrate their remarkable versatility from track to track. The luscious Hello Sunshine is followed by the morose Pan Ddaw’r Wawr from the all Welsh album Mwng, which was re released last year; and later the criminally Britpop Zoom! is preceded with the gorgeous, vocoder-utilising ‘Juxtaposed with U’, which ends with Gruff displaying a ‘Prolonged Applause’ placard during the song’s climax.
‘Golden Retriever’ is a sure-fire hit with the crowd that epitomises the band’s early days and is followed by the otherworldly ‘Receptacle for the Respectable’, which Gruff introduces with “This next song features a solo on a vegetable – unfortunately Paul McCartney couldn’t be with us tonight.” Evidently their sense of humour suits their style of music.
As if the rest of the set wasn’t mind-bending enough, the final two songs manage to defy all categorisation in terms of set climaxes. ‘Mountain People’ first takes the crowd to otherworldly places in a prolonged breakdown of irrational synths, wherein the stage lights act as though they’ve seen the devil, and then regular set closer and anarchic anthem ‘The Man Don’t Give A Fuck’ sees the group get into their super furry suits and end on a wall of feedback and one more placard: ‘The End’.
A cult band of the highest order, Super Furry Animals still maintain the ability to put on a show that isn’t at all shabby.