Super Furry Animals frontman Gruff Rhys came to Schubas Thursday night (June 9) for a concert of his solo music, and he brought along a whole bag of tricks. Need some audio samples? Rhys played them the old-fashioned way, with a miniature turntable spinning records such as a BCC sound-effects collection while Rhys and his band performed. Rhys also had some sort of electronic drumsticks, a device with a glowing red appendage that sounded like a Theremin, a yellow safety vest just in case his airplane crashed, some big signs saying “APPLAUSE,” WOAH,” and “THANK YOU.”
Rhys also had a repertoire of catchy songs, of course, as well as a wonderful, Welsh sense of humor and whimsy, which he displayed with his fanciful song introductions. And it helped that he had such a sharp backing band, Y Niwl, who are also from Wales. Y Niwl was the opening act, too, performing a groovy set of instrumental rock hearkening back to ’60s surf, twang and party rock. Y Niwl then returned to the stage for the main set, playing behind Rhys as he played tunes from his new album, Hotel Shampoo, and two earlier solo records.
The high point of the concert for me came at the end, when Rhys played the epic “Skylon!” — which was 14 minutes long in the studio version on his 2007 album Candylion, and was as long or longer in the live performance, combining a narrative about an airplane flight with a cycling riff that had some of the chugging power of a Velvet Underground rave-up but more of a psychedelic aura.