Gruff Rhys live in Brighton – review

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Gruff Rhys returned to the grand setting of Brighton’s St. George’s Church to perform his American Interior show for an expectant crowd. As well as the usual beautifully sung, incredibly infectious songs, the show was also part historical slide-show, part stand-up comedy.

The theme of the night’s performance was Rhys’s telling of the story of his distant relative John Evans. An original explorer of the Americas, Evans set off from his Welsh home in 1792 in search of a lost tribe of Welsh speaking, native Americans. His adventures eventually pitted him against alligators, sailing up the Ohio river in nothing more than a leather dingy and walking thousands of miles helping to map the new world.

After an initial video, which Gruff described as ‘historical background’ to the story, he launched into Year of the Dog. After so many years of touring it was slightly amusing to the crowd that Gruff struggled to navigate the right chords of his song. However after a couple of false starts, he soon hit his stride.

gruff rhys liveSongs from his previous solo albums fitted in seamlessly with the American Interior story. Shark Ridden Waters from previous record Hotel Shampoo took on new dimensions in this stripped down setting.

As the fantastical John Evans story unfolds you soon realise the mythical and unsubstantiated nature of the tale, yet Gruff Rhys could charm the most cynical observer and the story sweeps along with laid back humour and often poignant musical accompaniment.

During tonight’s performance, Gruff didn’t stray too far away from his trusty acoustic guitar. However when he did, he utilised his table of gadgets to create fantastic soundscapes for American Interior‘s more experimental tracks Lost Tribes and Allweddellau Allweddol.

I must admit I did slightly hanker for a few Super Furry Animals songs in the set. Having seen Gruff many times over the years, I knew this was just a dream and thankfully the two-hour show really showcased how much great material he has produced without his furry pals. It’s criminal that songs like Honey All Over and Sensations in the Dark aren’t huge mega hits that are played regularly on mainstream radio.

Although the John Evans story comes to a sad end with his death in New Orleans in his late 20s, you see parallels with the two distant relations and their longing to constantly discover and leave some positivity in this jaded, cynical world. I don’t think I’ve ever left a Gruff Rhys gig without anything other than a huge, childlike grin on my face and tonight’s performance was no exception.

gary page at bruce


Gruff Rhys live review by Gary Page