I have said it before and will certainly say it again — Super Furry Animals are the best band of the last ten years. No other group has grown, mutated, continued to excite, "pushed the envelope" the way they have while still making records that remain within the confines of pop music. I appreciate the path that Radiohead have taken, but they haven’t made a record that I actually enjoy listening to since OK Computer. SFA crank out great album after great album, maybe to the point people take them for granted.
I have seen Super Furry Animals on every tour for every album, beginning with a CMJ show at Mercury Lounge in 1996 which, if memory serves, was a Creation Records showcase (this was when Oasis were f-ing huge, remember) and they shared the bill with the now-forgotten Heavy Stereo. The best shows were a showcase at Knitting Factory around the time of their breakthrough album Radiator when they had no US label (they played with the also then-unsigned Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci) and the Bowery Ballroom show supporting MWNG where they brought out mariachi horn players dressed as nuns for "Northern Lites." I feel fairly confident in saying there’s no such thing as a bad Super Furry Animals show.
But some are less good than others. Saturday night’s gig at Webster Hall was maybe the least of all their shows I’ve been to, suffering from two things: 1) being at Webster Hall, the second worst place to see a show in New York [Irving Plaza is #1], and 2) an odd choice in the way the setlist was structured.
Lots more after the jump.
Appearing on stage in what looked like glowing, electrified rain-wear,
the ‘Furries opened with a couple oldies — "International Language of
Screaming" and "Hello Sunshine" both to thunderous applause — before
launching into an uninterrupted 40-minute set of songs from their new
album, Love Kraft. I love the new album, but much of it verges on soft rock and it seemed to put the audience to sleep. Though, as Matt said, maybe the crowd was just that
into it. That said, the bombastic "Splash," "Atomic Lust," and "Ohio
Heat" (the album’s best song) were great.
After the Love Kraft set,
they played the single-only "Ice Hockey Hair" (minus the vocoder,
though), and then "Receptacle for the Respectable" complete with Gryff
adding rhythm by chomping on celery (Paul McCartney provides the
choppers on the album version).
Then they bid the crowd adieu, but almost the second they walked
off-stage, the electronic intro to Phantom Power’s "Slow Life." The
"encore" turned out to be nearly as long as the main set, and was a
greatest hits set that touched on all the albums: "Juxtaposed With U,"
current single "Lazer Beam," "Rings Around the World," "Do or Die,"
"Something for the Weekend," and "Calimero" before their now standard,
epic, Steely-Dan-sampling show-ender "The Man Don’t Give a Fuck." You’d
think after seven years of seeing them end the show this way, I’d get
bored by it. But it has yet to happen.
My favorite song of the whole night was "Calimero," mainly because it was just the band rocking out, no playing to backing tracks. It was really loud and excellent.
This was probably the best light show I’ve seen them use. The accompanying films were minimalistic, a lot of geometric shapes rendered as if they were test-shots for TRON. The whole show was very TRON, actually, what with those electric suits and all. I do wish there had been a few more lights on the band members, though.
They did not tour with the 5.1 surround setup that was brought along for the last two albums, and thank god for that. At the Rings Around the World show at Irving plaza, the bass was so loud and so deep, I thought it might either stop my heart or make me sterile. The sound was decent for Webster Hall, a room that makes bands sound way too boomy (only Doves, who sound boomy anyway, have truly gotten the mix right there).
I just hate Webster Hall, though it has improved since Bowery took over booking shows. The staff is particularly horrible. One bartender took my order, flitted around for a bit then came back and said "what would you like, hon?" I said you already took my order. She took it again and brought me my $6 bottle of Bud. The downstairs bar that has draft pints for the same price was off-limits, as My Awesome ’80s Prom was going on simultaneously. They just don’t care about you there. They want you buy as many crappy drinks as possible, then get the hell out.
Like I said, it was a good show, but I guess I just long for the days when they played Bowery Ballroom and didn’t use all the backing tracks.
Information Leafblower goes backstage at SFA’s Washington DC show.