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When we spoke to Gruff earlier this year he told us he had deliberately booked gigs in smaller, seated and often ornate venues so in Bristol there was really only one option – St George’s. St George’s is a fairly serene old church, just off Park Street, and it provided the perfect backdrop for this sold out gig. If you’ve ever seen Gruff talk or play before then you will know just what fun his gigs can be, think bobble hats, inflatable palm trees, fake talk shows and life jackets and that’s just for starters. Gruff, who is still with the Super Furry Animals, cuts an adorable figure on stage with his slightly awkward yet wonderfully warm presence. He started off with the title track off his 2007 album Candylion, wowing the audience with these electric light-up drumsticks (they’ve probably got a proper name but I ain’t ever seen them before) before throwing in a couple of Welsh language numbers including the heartbreaking tw-hander Pwdin Ŵy 1 & 2 (which roughly translates into English as Egg Pudding). Whether singing in Welsh or English (and at times it took a good few words to suss out which) Gruff’s unmistakable accent was a catalyst for the excellence of the songs. Understandably, there were moments when Gruff’s solo offerings could easily have been a Super Furry Animals masterpiece in the vein of Gathering Moss, but there were much more mature, mellow influences shining through too including those of Nick Drake and even Bob Dylan. He played a hefty chunk of material from his new album Hotel Shampoo (inspired by the thousands of shampoo bottles he’d collected from hotels across the world) from the catchy Vitamin K and Sophie Softly to the very apt Sensations in the Dark (was pretty dark in St George’s) and Rubble Rubble. The highlight had to be the painfully romantic ballad ‘If We Were Words (We Would Rhyme). Seriously, the urge to run up onstage and wrap your arms around the gorgeous fella was utterly compelling at that point. Truly beautiful. The encore saw Gruff carrying a giant sign which read Conservation Conversation. It’s the name of a track from his new album, but in this instance it was the name of a makeshift talk show featuring Welsh singer/songwriter Cate Le Bon. It really did feel like ‘An Evening With Gruff and Friends…’ No bad thing. He ended the night by going full circle and playing the mammoth offering from Candylion, Skylon (this is where he donned a life jacket!) with the caveat that “if anyone had to get up for work the next day they may want to leave now cos this requires commitment.” That it did, but it was heavily rewarded commitment. The only thing Gruff could’ve done to better this gig was to throw in his cover of the Manic Street Preachers’ A Design For Life (see below).

Words: Laura Williams
Photo: Mark James