Gig review: Gruff Rhys, Glasgow

Gruff Rhys: an engagingly eccentric mix of music, myth and panto. Picture: PA

Gruff Rhys: an engagingly eccentric mix of music, myth and panto. Picture: PA

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IN A parallel universe, Welsh wizard Gruff Rhys is regarded as a national treasure. One of the greatest songwriters of the last 20 years, the erstwhile Super Furry Animals leader is an eccentric pop craftsman whose boundless imagination is nothing short of extraordinary.

Gruff Rhys

School Of Art, Glasgow

*****

The latest stop on his musical journey is American Interior, a typically ambitious multi-media project encompassing an app, book, documentary, album and, as witnessed tonight, a live show/PowerPoint presentation.

The adventure began when Rhys came to believe he was descended from an obscure 18th century explorer named John Evans. The story goes that Evans embarked on a solo expedition to America in search of the Mandan, a lost, Welsh-speaking tribe supposedly descended from a 12th century Welsh prince named Madoc; according to legend, Madoc discovered America 300 years before Columbus.

In Rhys’s hands this epic saga unfolded like a tragicomic shaggy dog story. Performing with his band on a cramped stage adorned with fake cacti and an endearing, Henson-like puppet of Evans – who also appeared in a series of wonky, hilarious PowerPoint slides – Rhys’s wonderfully melodic, retro-futurist pop songs were interspersed with a charmingly rambling account of Evans’s treacherous, yet ultimately futile, adventure.

Resembling a hip, dishevelled history teacher, Rhys held his audience spellbound throughout this lo-fi cavalcade of music, myth and – oh yes – pantomime. It was funnier than many actual comedy shows.

Like Evans before him, the man is a visionary, an unsung original.

Seen on 19.02.15

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