Review | Gruff Rhys at the Wedgewood Rooms, Southsea: 'A true weird-pop genius'

Gruff Rhys at The Wedgewood Rooms, November 2, 2021. Picture by Paul WindsorGruff Rhys at The Wedgewood Rooms, November 2, 2021. Picture by Paul Windsor
Gruff Rhys at The Wedgewood Rooms, November 2, 2021. Picture by Paul Windsor
As Gruff Rhys and his band amble on to the stage, the band leader is holding a series of placards which he holds up to the audience.

One reads: ‘The next 120 minutes will change your life,’ which is no small claim.

The next one undercuts this somewhat with: ‘Or maybe not,’ and then entreats us all to just enjoy our evening...

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It’s typical of the cult singer-songwriter’s laidback style.

Over the course of seven solo albums (material from his nine albums as frontman of Super Furry Animals doesn't get a look in here) he has walked an idiosyncratic path, typified on his latest release – Seeking New Gods is a concept album about the lifespan of a volcano on the North Korea/China border.

The setlist though, ranges over most of his solo output (bar his debut Yr Atal Genhedlaeth, which was sung entirely in his native Welsh), and demonstrates that Rhys has always pursued a memorable tune, even if not in the most conventional manner.

The new album gets played in full, bookended by a healthy selection of earlier material.

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Hiking in Lightning gets a beefed up performance from its recorded version – Gruff swaps his acoustic for an electric guitar while drummer Kliph Scurlock is a blur throughout. Mausoleum of My Former Self and Loan Your Loneliness are both rather beautiful.

He introduces Honey All Over from 2011’s Hotel Shampoo as having been written for Britney Spears – except her producers begged to differ. Her loss, as it’s a catchy slice of leftfield pop.

Negative Vibes from 2018’s Babelsberg provides anything but with it’s upbeat sentiment.

And American Interior’s title track gives his two backing singers a chance to shine.

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As they play Gyrru Gyrru Gyrru, and its pounding Krautrock builds to a climax, Gruff holds up another of his signs: ‘Resist phony encores.’

They plough straight into a heady Cycle of Violence before Gruff holds up one last sign: ‘The End,’ and they’re gone.

As Gruff notes during the set, he’s been coming to The Wedge for 25 years – since the Super Furries burst onto the Britpop scene.

Never one to follow trends, he has always followed his own vision – a true weird-pop genius.

Here’s to another 25 years.

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