Gruff Rhys – review

Harrogate theatre

"The biggest array of talent since Woodstock, but in one person" is how the Harrogate international festival fringe announcer introduces Gruff Rhys. High praise somewhat at odds with the bearded, jacketed figure who shuffles on looking like a 1970s geography teacher who has misplaced his notes. "I've left the metronome in Cardiff," begins the Super Furry Animal and solo artist, explaining that someone in the audience has lent him one but the settings on it are different. "So if this song is a bit faster … " Moments later, Rhys looks panicked as the song hurtles along: "It's definitely faster!" The audience erupts.

So begins a wonderful 90 minutes with the maverick Welshman, part wistful singer-songwriter, part bone-dry comic. "The stage is tilting," Rhys declares. "I feel like I'm on the edge of a precipice." With sweet melodies hailing from his Candylion and Hotel Shampoo albums and The Terror of Cosmic Loneliness, a "really heavy" album he made with a Brazilian TV repairman, no one else makes music like this. His wry commentary on foreign policy, Colonise the Moon, includes the line: "I vomited through your saxophone solo." He sings in Welsh and English, produces a sign requesting "APPLAUSE!" and is backed by bird song and malfunctioning electronic gadgets: a Welsh Nick Drake meets Mr Bean.

"Maybe I should sit down again and do another song," he chuckles as the sampler seizes up, so he plays the beautifully bittersweet Rubble Rubble. Then the organisers hand him a cake for his 41st birthday. Someone in the audience produces a tiny penknife and Rhys hacks into the cake determinedly, and shares it with the crowd.


Dave Simpson

The GuardianTramp

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