Two days into the working week and I've been mighty lucky to see two bands playing very intimate venues in Cardiff. Last night SUPER FURRY ANIMALS began a four-night residency at Clwb Ifor Bach, playing to about 150 people.. probably about 9,850 shy of the the kind of numbers they could pull in the capital if they chose to. The gigs are warm-ups for the festivals they'll be playing throughout the summer, as well as a first outing for new material from their forthcoming album 'Hey Venus' which is due in August.
Last night they played a fair bit of new material - about six songs or so - all of which was well received. Almost all of it was very untidy and delivered a little nervously - but that's to be expected. There were a couple of standout moments - the first track, which Gruff introduced as something like Side 1, Track 1 - lasted all of about 60 seconds and was immense fun. Another, with a chant of "Hot Club" was like nothing I've ever heard from the band - a hooky, cheeky, disco-tinged number - an immediate highlight.
The 'hits' peppered the set too. 'Ice Hockey Hair' was fantastic and could have been a triumphant set closer. I'd forgotten what a great song it is, and that it was even theirs. The fact they finished with 'The Man Don't Give A Fuck', great as it is, suggests they could do with a shake up and some more confidence in their extraordinarily diverse and deep back catalogue.
Tonight, THE MANIC STREET PREACHERS played a special show at the 500-capacity The Point. Now, I've seen the Manics play to 60,000 people at the Millennium Stadium, so this really was an incredible squeeze and a bona fide treat. They blasted through a greatest hits set which tore the roof off - if you've lost your way with the band over the years, then this dusted off the cobwebs and restored your interest. Almost everything came through with a punch - 'Motown Junk' was particularly terrific. When they could have come and meandered through it, instead they played like they meant it. I didn't think I'd have enjoyed it as much as I did. Great stuff.
Because the Manics were playing for a broadcast their set was done by 9pm which meant I got to see THE ANSWERING MACHINE play at the Barfly. There were 12 other people in the venue. I have no idea why the band are on a headline tour at this stage of their career. Daftness. They were good though - I am a fan of 'Oaklahoma''s twee/indie/pop, and though the new single 'Silent Hotels' opens sounding like a sample of Los Campesinos' 'You! Me! Dancing!' (I have no idea who actually came first mind) it's still almost as much fun. They play without a drummer too and get away with it easily!