JDK 24
Photo by Jack Kirwin -JK Photography-

Super Furry Animals – Manchester Albert Hall, 7th May 2015

Photo by Jack Kirwin -JK Photography-
Photo by Jack Kirwin -JK Photography-

Super Furry Animals have always been a reassuring constant throughout my life. From the moment I first heard ‘God! Show Me Magic’ emerging through a blue haze of illicit underage cigarette smoke at a house party back in 1996, through to Radiator marking the end of my GCSEs, Guerrilla soundtracking my first ever relationship and Rings Around the World giving me solace as it later ended, they’d always been a band intrinsically linked with the early part of my adult life. Heck, they were even technically the first band I ever saw live (supporting Blur at Newcastle’s Telewest Arena back in December 1997). But then, as so many wonderful things do as the years go by, they seemed to drift away. A combination of never quite achieving massive commercial success, changing trends and side projects meant that with every year that passed, their self-imposed hiatus seemed more likely to be a permanent full-stop to one of the most consistently exemplary careers in recent music history.

Photo by Jack Kirwin -JK Photography-
Photo by Jack Kirwin -JK Photography-

So when you hear that finally they are back, several things go through your head. Excitement – for sure. But also trepidation, uncertainty – that fear that actually some things are best left in the past. I was 14 when I first heard SFA. I turn 34 this year. That’s twenty years. A long time, gone too quickly. Is it wise to live in nostalgia? And are such an unique band still relevant in the changeable musical climate of 2015?

The answer, as it transpired tonight, was an unequivocal yes.

Photo by Jack Kirwin -JK Photography-
Photo by Jack Kirwin -JK Photography-

Several things conspired to make tonight such an overwhelming triumph. Firstly, the venue. Manchester’s Albert Hall is the most glorious place – bright spring sunshine drifting through stained glass windows into a warm amphitheatre wonderfully configured for sound and packed to absolute capacity. Secondly, the support band – a welcome and joyful return for The Magic Numbers who still have the ability to warm your heart with their effortless melodies. And thirdly, that from the minute that Super Furry Animals walk onstage and kick straight into an opening trio of ‘(A) Touch Sensitive’, ‘(Drawing) Rings Around the World’ and ‘Do or Die’, you realise you’re dealing with one of the finest collections of songs that any British band has accumulated over the past twenty years. And more than that, they’re sounding better than ever.

Photo by Jack Kirwin -JK Photography-
Photo by Jack Kirwin -JK Photography-

One thing that has always made the band so unique is their ability to remain fresh and creative while still sounding joyous and carefree. Too often, the drive for innovation comes at the cost of joy – cold-faced creativity. With the Super Furry Animals, everything seems to come as a splurge of creative joy sent directly from the heart. Much of tonight’s set is built around their brave and bold 2000 Welsh language album Mwng, recorded partly as a reaction to their dissatisfaction with their label and clearly close to the band’s own heart. Its myriad, frosty organic textures still sounding glorious tonight, particularly a sweeping ‘Pan Ddaw’r Wawr’ and a kaleidoscopic ‘Ymaelodi Â’r Ymylon’. As with each of their records, nothing is wasted and the set is expertly assembled – the waves of experimental psychedelia tempered by gilded pop nuggets such as ‘Hello Sunshine’ and ‘Juxtapozed With U’. The band are clad in white jumpsuits – relaxed and utterly at ease with their material and their legacy – with two brass players perched above the stage fleshing out the sound. Put simply – they sound remarkable and timeless. Unlike so many of their 90s contemporaries, this doesn’t sound like a reflective croak back to the days of Britpop and This Life. This sounds timeless, essential and still gloriously relevant.

 

Photo by Jack Kirwin -JK Photography-
Photo by Jack Kirwin -JK Photography-

The set continues to a frenzy. ‘Golden Retriever’ swings and bounces around the rafters, ‘Fire in My Heart’ sparks off a stadium-level singalong and as always, the closing ‘The Man Don’t Give a Fuck’ (ironically relevant as the news of the projected Conservative election win filters slowly through the room) results in a monumental demonstration of pogoing at the front. And then in a swirl of dry ice, they’re gone, leaving only sweat, sore limbs and beaming smiles throughout the crowd. And suddenly, you realise that this is more than likely the start of a brand new chapter for them. They’re still here, they’re still relevant and they still have the ability to shine brightly. Pointless nostalgia is a waste of time. Reconnecting with something truly magical and realising that you were actually right all along however, certainly is not. I feel older but I feel happy and energised. Another chapter of my life can be colourfully illustrated by the magic emanating from this glorious, unfettered and bizarrely beautiful little band. Long may they remain with us and long may they remain within my life.

 

Photo by Jack Kirwin -JK Photography-
Photo by Jack Kirwin -JK Photography-

Photography by Jack Kirwin
http://www.jackkirwinphotography.com/

God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.