Gruff Rhys_Lost Tribes

Gruff Rhys


It’s probable the name John Evans means nothing to you, but he has an extraordinary story which was given a new lease of life by Gruff Rhys. Via his album American Interior with accompanying book, documentary and mobile app, the former Super Furry Animals frontman details Evans later life as an 18th Century explorer who travelled from Wales to America in search of a lost tribe of Welsh speaking Native Americans, accidentally annexing one third of North America in the process.

Structurally, American Interior follows a similar tract to his wildly underrated Neon Neon project; records based on an interesting concept but having the strength of material to not rely purely on the narrative.

To bring everyone up to speed, the show begins with an excerpt of documentary by Gwyn Williams retracing Evans’s steps, presented in a sort of Keith-Floyd-goes-exploring style, setting the tone for the evening of intrigue and amusement.

Armed with a guitar and an iPad, Gruff introduces each song with an informative and often hilarious presentation, each a chapter in the life of John Evans. Tales of imprisonment and radicalisation ensue, delivered like a real comedian with wit and verve, a combination of Dave Gorman’s sharp show design and deadpan delivery.

Backed by a full band, a Welsh super group of sorts, Gruff brings to life the story through one of the finest collections of melodies released last year. Gorgeous songs like ‘The Last Conquistador’ and ‘Lost Tribes’ are exquisite. This is fortunate, as the presentation is told so joyfully it is easy to forget the reason people are packed into Academy 2 on a Friday night is his songwriting prowess.

Over an hour of song and slide before the story is capped off perfectly in roaring rockabilly swansong ‘100 Unread Messages’, classic folk storytelling for the modern world.

As if that wasn’t enough, there is even time for a seven song encore comprising the best cuts from earlier material. ‘Honey All Over’ from ‘Hotel Shampoo’ is probably the best thing he’s penned since his band days, but it is Candylion’s ‘Gyrru Gyrru Gurru’ which brings the house down.

There are few folk around with the imagination of Gruff Rhys, and even less with the required panache to execute his glorious ideas. From one of the most inventive guitar bands Britain has ever produced to ingenious PowerPoint pop, we can only hope that we have another Welsh troubadour who lives forever in folklore.

 Gruff Rhys  Official | Facebook | Twitter | Youtube

Joseph Curran

Features Editor and gig reviewer