A Classic Set in a Historic Location

This is one of those gigs where it’s important to spend a bit of time talking about the venue, as much as it is telling you what the show was like. Somerset House in it’s current guise stands on the site of a palace built in 1545 for the Duke of Somerset. The building fell into disrepair and was demolished in 1775, making way for what we see today. Many organisations and societies have occupied space at Somerset House throughout its long and intriguing history; the board of the Inland Revenue still use parts of the building, having first moved there in 1789. In the centre is a giant courtyard which hosts concerts and film screenings in the summer, and is the home for one of London’s most popular ice rinks during the winter.

This wasn’t Super Furry Animals’ first visit to this venue; they took to the stage here the night after the July bombings in 2005. They’re a band who fit in perfectly here, quirky, intriguing and ultimately uplifting, of those three the latter is the over riding way to describe this particular set, intriguing is one word to use for the bar prices: £4 for a pint of Carling or a small bottle of cider?

When R13 reviewed the Furry’s Rock Ness performance, we commented that the band’s ability to pull in a loyal following was just as well, since they were running the risk of alienating those who simply know the hits by playing the, admittedly very good, new album ‘Dark Days, Light Years’ in full from the start of the set. Not something I’m against, I’ve praised Iron Maiden in the past for doing exactly the same, but such a decision is more of a risk in a festival environment than at a show such as this where everyone has come to see them.

As it turned out this gig was exactly what you would want from a festival headlining performance, a sprinkling of new songs in between virtually all the fan favourites. With ‘Rings Around the World’, ‘Juxtaposed With You’ (complete with Kraftwerk-style robotic vocals), ‘Golden Retriever’ and ‘Hello Sunshine’ all appearing within the first five tracks, you wondered if they were going for the Rock Ness-style gig in reverse, but this was as well balanced a setlist as any Furry’s fan could wish for.

Another big hit ‘If You Don’t Want Me to Destroy You’ arrived mid set, with two stand out new offerings soon after in ‘Moped Eyes’ and ‘Inaugural Trams’.

‘The Man Don’t Give A Fuck’ doesn’t pack quite the same punch when not sued to end the night, however it’s still a mighty tune, although on this occasion, for this reviewer at least, it was eclipsed by the thunderous debut album single ‘God Show Me Magic’. Either of those make for excellent set closers, this time it was the decent but not quite so anthemic ‘Trigger Happy’.

Much of this year’s Summer Series line up featured current hyped acts, Pendulum, The Enemy, Calvin Harris and Lily Allen are all playing this famous old site between The Strand and the Thames. Just as what makes this event is the something a little bit different nature of the venue, the Super Furry Animals offer a fantastic alternative to any current trend, sometimes crossing the boundary from their world into what the music industry wants at the time, but always on their own creative terms. This gig confirmed they have both an enviable collection of singles to their name, alongside a bunch of new songs which stand up next to anything they’ve written up to now. It’s also more likely they’ll be back here once again in another few years than any of the others mentioned.