Monday, 11 July 2016

Memories of a thousand* gigs #50

(* probably not actually that many, but who’s counting?)

#50: Gruff Rhys

Sherman Theatre, Cardiff - 18 December 2014
Support: Martin Carr
Also in attendance: MrsRobster

This one stands out as being the most unique gig I've ever attended. So much so, in fact, that it shouldn't really be labelled as a gig at all; it was more a lecture interspersed with songs. Sound bizarre? Well of course - we're talking about Gruff Rhys here, after all. This show (the first of two he played at the Sherman Theatre on consecutive nights) was part of his 'American Interior' tour. The album and show tell the story of 18th century Welsh explorer John Evans and his ultimately futile trek across America in search of a Welsh-speaking tribe of Native Americans. So naturally it was always going to be a bit different.

Opening was former Boo Radleys singer Martin Carr. He roped in Cardiff folk trio Barefoot Dance of the Sea to sing backing vocals. I was never a big fan of the Boo Radleys, and his solo set failed to inspire me also. It was pleasant enough, but nothing to get me excited enough to check him out further.

Gruff didn't need anyone to help him out. His supporting cast consisted solely of a stuffed John Evans puppet, an acoustic guitar, a keyboard, a few effects and an iPad. The latter was used to control a PowerPoint presentation which illustrated the story. The stage set would normally have been rather sparse, but this being the festive season, the Sherman was hosting Cardiff's big panto Arabian Nights and its props and scenery (sand 'n' all) remained in place while Gruff set himself up in the middle of it all. He played songs from 'American Interior' and regaled the audience with softly-spoken, frequently funny tales of John Evans' adventure. Even though we all knew Evans' search was in vain, Gruff's sympathetic delivery made us all root for him regardless.

The songs were far more stripped down than the versions on the album, but this merely added to the intimate feel of the whole thing. The Sherman is small as theatres go and everyone is pretty close to each other. Come the end, Gruff treated us to a few of his other solo songs - The Court of King Arthur (my favourite song off 'Candylion'), If We Were Words and a few others from the award-winning 'Hotel Shampoo', and to round off on a seasonal note, Post-Apocalypse Christmas from his 'Atheist Xmas' EP.

Yes, the most unique show we'd ever been too, and one of the most enjoyable as a result. 



  1. i saw him do this show in brighton. And it was without doubt the best gig of the year.

  2. I envy both of you! Who knows what Gruff Rhys will do next, but it will surely be something that he alone has the imagination and talent to create.

  3. Sounds just incredible. It's the unusual shows which tend to stick most in the memory.

    For me its this one from which I've bookmarked a review from back in 2006 as it is without question my favourite ever piece about Nick Cave:-

    It was the Bad Seeds as re-imagined by the soon to be Grinderman:-

    West Country Girl, Abattoir Blues, Red Right Hand, The Ship Song, Wonderful Life, Babe, You Turn Me On, The Weeping Song, Cannibal's Hymn, Rock of Gibraltar, Messiah Ward,Henry Lee, The Mercy Seat, Hiding All Away, God Is in the House, Tupelo, The Lyre of Orpheus, People Ain't No Good, Right Now I'm A-Roaming, Stagger Lee, Lucy, Jack the Ripper, Little Janey's Gone.

    Sorry for hijacking Gruff Rhys with this....but it's more about the memory of possibly the greatest gig of my life. Third row back in the centre...