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Gapers Block published from April 22, 2003 to Jan. 1, 2016. The site will remain up in archive form. Please visit Third Coast Review, a new site by several GB alumni.
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Review Fri Jun 10 2011

Review: Gruff Rhys, Y Niwl @ Schubas, 6/9

Gapers Gruff Rhys 4.jpg
Gruff Rhys (Photo by Kirstie Shanley)

Frontmen's solo efforts can be a mixed bag of why-didn't-you-use-these-songs-on-your-band's-album and this-is-dreadful. Gruff Rhys' solo albums are not exactly an intercontinental flight away from his day job at Super Furry Animals, but they can run on a path far from that highway. Rarely is there anything dreadful about them, though. His latest, Hotel Shampoo, sounds at times like a laid-back SFA with keyboards often leading the way. Thursday's set at Schubas began with the album's closer "Rubble Rubble" and Rhys deadpanning that "not many people have reached the song." From there he moved onto selections from 2007's Candylion, a few from 2005's Yr Atal Genhedlaeth and even from the weird 2010 collaboration with a person named Tony Da Gatorra while playing piano, guitar, digital air drum sticks and using a turntable as accompaniment for sound effects.

A half-hour into a 100-minute set, he reeled off a slew of Hotel Shampoo songs that were rather faithful to their recorded versions. While they were received with nice applause, all night it was the Candylion songs like "The Court of King Arthur" and "Cycle of Violence" that received the biggest hands. When Rhys last came through Chicago to play those, it was a simple acoustic affair. But with a full band, those tunes were fleshed out and showcased from psychedelic to straight poppy rock.

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Gruff Rhys (Photo by Kirstie Shanley)

The epic "Skylon" closed the evening. In a gimmicky fashion that was the biggest link to SFA's whirlwind live show, Rhys donned an airplane emergency life vest and pointed out the exits at Schubas before launching into the 15-minute tale of a bomb-defusing expert's fantasy aboard a hijacked aircraft. Like the "No Encore" sign that SFA's used, Rhys held up "THANK YOU" and "THE END" signs at its conclusion before walking out. Despite a delayed start (due to late arrival of equipment), there were few hitches in a set that tracked the solo career of one of the most innovative musical minds out of Wales.

Y Niwl, who also performed as Rhys' backing band, opened with a surprisingly rollicking set of instrumental surf rock songs. They didn't do much aside from tap their feet, say thank you and explain their set list is written out in numbers, but their music was a lot of fun. Clear inspirations came from Dick Dale and even Man or Astroman, especially their closer that (unintentionally) ripped off an Eeviac track.

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Feature Thu Dec 31 2015

Our Final Transmission Days

By The Gapers Block Transmission Staff

Transmission staffers share their most cherished memories and moments while writing for Gapers Block.

Read this feature »


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