Animals prove to be anything but tameable

Ryan Dombal

It’s inevitable. There are always going to be absolute morons standing next to you at each and every pop music concert you attend. Even when the main attraction is a quirky little band from Wales, drunken World War I “buffs” and annoying, out-of-place 40-somethings come with the territory.

With this in mind, you can picture the scene April 19 at the Abbey Pub. But the best bands can engage their crowds enough to make them forget about such disturbances, and true to form, the Super Furry Animals overpowered the Abbey’s obnoxious clientele with their unique brand of strange-yet-beautiful music.

SFA’s music lies within the same ambitious, genre-defying realm as their American counterparts, The Flaming Lips. And, like the Lips, they are a playful live band that isn’t afraid to project images of a running, jumping golden retriever during their aptly titled new song, “Golden Retriever.”

Relying heavily on songs from their latest opus, Rings Around the World, the sheer sonic density of most of the songs was astounding. In the middle of one sonic boom, the Welsh-sung “Calimero,” the PA system literally gave out for a few minutes.

The band opened with the blistering, hip-hop-tinged instrumental, “Touch Sensitive,” and cruised through Rings highlights like the Beach Boys-esque apocalyptic farce “It’s Not the End of the World?” and the folk/pop/death metal epic “Receptacle for the Respectable.” During the latter, singer Gruff Rhys crunched into a celery stick, reprising Paul McCartney’s role on the album version of the song, while a roadie in a John Lennon mask threw even more celery into the audience.

But SFA are not all flying vegetables and jumping dogs. Their strong political and religious views became clear during two of their most powerful songs. The band played the slow-building, anti-Christian space-folk ditty “Run! Christian, Run!” while famous quotes from the likes of entertainer/atheist W.C. Fields were projected behind them inside a circle of hellish flames. And, as Rhys sang “You know they don’t give a fuck about anybody else” during the irresistible political satire “Man Don’t Give a Fuck,” the entire crowd couldn’t help but join his rebel yell.

The set’s grand finale epitomized SFA’s uncanny appeal. The two-part Welsh epic “Gwreiddiau Dwfn”started off as a simple ballad centered around Rhys’ gentle acoustic strumming. But instead of going out on a somber note, a menacing drum sample began to seep out of the speakers and, before you knew it, the entire venue was enclosed in otherworldly sounds concocted by the band’s techno whiz, Cian Ciaran. At the center of the sonic maelstrom was an absurdly appropriate vocal sample of Arnold Schwarzenegger summing up the SFA live experience perfectly as he repeated, “best mind-fuck yet.”

As the house lights went up, the 40-somethings had left, the drunks were falling down and all was well with the world. nyou