Gruff Rhys & Jens Lekman - Paradiso, Amsterdam - 27/01/05

"From I Jonathan wannabes to Purple and Orange mountain goats in two hours."



We'd had a few, mostly due to the excitement of interviewing Gruff in the afternoon, partly in the illicit pleasure to be had in temporarily falling off the New Year's No Drinking wagon. We were in a good mood, and why the hell not? The Paradiso's Klein Zaal only helped matters by being pleasingly full. A nice atmosphere infused the room, perfectly setting up Jens Lekman. For those unfamilair with Mr. L, I shall do my best to describe him. Angular, tall and seemingly restless of disposition, he was sporting a fashionable tweed cap, and was accompanied in his performance by both a cello and violin player. His songs had a definite flavour of "I Jonathan" period Jonathan Richman. Personal, soul-bared stuff, stories about "difficult" girls (and the protracted, complicated ways of conducting meaningful relationships with them) were very much in evidence. There were other numbers about environmental protests in Stockholm (actually very affecting and beautiful) and snowflakes. If I sound dismissive then I'll redress the balance by saying I liked him a lot. A definite, if somewhat traditional, talent.


By the time Gruff ambled on, the audience were well primed and fairly well oiled. There was certainly the feeling that a very pleasant night was in store.


Starting John Shuttleworth style with a casio led intro, Mr Rhys proceded to play tracks from his wonderful new solo lp Yr Atal. This being a Gruff Rhys gig, all the songs were interspersed with rambling tales - girlfriends going to South America, buying keyboards in Welsh garages, Gruff's tale about his childhood spent learning guitar backwards - that kind of thing. This japery didn't stop with inter-song banter, as the audience were somewhat surprised to hear their attempts at animal and bird sounds recorded by some fancy on-stage gadget and played back to them as a kind of backdrop. People were dragged on stage to play wind machines and electric bagpipes. We were invited to accompany (by clapping) a cover version of a Welsh language mid eighties power ballad. Gruff sat alone, the joker in him clearly enjoying the gentle confusion he had stirred up. Super Furry songs from the Welsh album Mwyng were aired as well as a belting new SFA number about the moon. A stupendous encore about Welsh goatherders who had lost their flocks (and accompanied by baffling facial expressions) finished off a fanatastic night. Wonderful.


Words: Richard Foster

Photograph : Damian Leslie