One of the things I recall quite clearly about the show that the Super Furry Animals played a few year ago at the Abbey Pub (when Rings Around the World had just come out) was the lack of an encore. It was a superb show and the crowd clearly wanted to hear more, but the band seemed to have worked out just how to end the performance on the perfect note, and they weren’t coming back. It was one of a few shows I saw around that time without encores, which would have been unheard of in the years before that. A few artists, at least, finally seemed to recognize the emptiness of this ritual if it is allowed to happen at EVERY concert.
The Super Furry Animals were back on Saturday, playing this time at Metro. I’ve missed all SFA shows since that stop at the Abbey Pub, but once again, the band took a “no encore” stance. This time, in fact, lead singer Gruff Rhys, held up a sign reading “RESIST PHONY ENCORES” before leaving the stage. And sure enough, there was no encore, even though just about everyone in attendance would have been happy to hear another song or two.
It was a top-notch set, with a good selection of songs from various SFA records, ranging from oldies (well, relative oldies) like “Golden Retriever” and “Rings Around the World” to songs off the group’s fine new pop album Hey Venus!. Thanks to those Welsh-accented vocals, it all sounded pretty consistent, even when the styles of music shifted from straightforward indie pop to psychedelia. The show lacked the constant stream of films that appeared in the last SFA concert I saw, but it still had a few elements of absurd spectacle. Rhys performed the first song and one later song with his head encased in a large mask/helmet, resembling some sort of alien racecar driver. He also chomped on carrots during one song and spat the remnants onto the stage.
The first act was Jeffrey Lewis, who was pretty amusing with his comical songs (including one describing a conversation with Will Oldham) and “movies” – stories he told with illustrated books. Next up was Times New Viking, a guitar-drums-keyboard trio doing lo-fi rock with the vocals buried under all the noise. I liked some of what I could make out in all that din, though it got a little tiresome by the end. (And for what it’s worth, the comments I heard from others at the Metro about Times New Viking ranged from, “Hey, they were pretty good” to “Worst show of the year.”)