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Wednesday, January 28, 2004

The F. Word - The Gallery, Oxo Tower Wharf, January 04

The Gallery at Oxo Tower Wharf is tiny, C-shaped and probably no bigger than the box on a football pitch and didn't take more than about twenty minutes to work my way around. The Forgiveness Project is an organisation dedicated to peaceful conflict resolution and encouraging dialogue between parties towards peace and reconciliation, this exhibition is intended to show examples of this from real-life testimonies. Whether by design or because it was that way already the room has simple white walls, so nothing distracts from the images. Hung on the walls are photographs of people. Next to the portraits are a bit of text about the event in their lives about which they've either seeken for forgiveness or given it, then a bit in their own words. There's a wide range, Archbishop Desmond Tutu about the importance of forgiveness so that South Africa could move on after Apartheid, Brighton Bomber Pat McGee and the daughter of one of his victims, An Israeli and a Jew who are both members of a cross-border group for people who have lost family members, a couple of murderers, the parents of one of the Alder Hay children, Victoria Climbie's parents. The victims, the attackers, the guilty and the innocent. These testaments are often shocking in their simplicity and the oft repeated message is, the second victim of an act of violence is the person who surrenders to hate.

What was odd though is that one of the photos, apparently given no special position, is of the wife of murdered reporter Daniel Pearl. Marianne hasn't forgiven his murderers, quite the opposite. She wrote to the Pakistani government asking for the death penalty for his killers and when one of them asked to see her she refused. So quite what her portrait was doing in an exhibition on forgiveness I don't know.

The exhibition is on until the 1st February, the.gallery@oxo, Ground Floor, Oxo Tower Wharf, Bargehouse Street, London.
The website for The Forgiveness Project is here.
Review by Loz at 10:08 am
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Thursday, November 06, 2003
SUPER FURRY ANIMALS, MANCHESTER ACADEMY, OCTOBER 03

IT IS an odd crowd who go to see the Super Furry Animals; strange fans.

A friend of a friend got talking to me at a party the other night, and told me a tale from the Manchester gig we had both (unknowingly) attended. He was standing around, minding his own business, when a guy wanders past him holding four pints in the renowned 'claw' procedure. He moves to allow the guy to get past, at which point his kindness is returned with a question - "Aren't you from Caergwrle?"

Oddly enough, despite having never met the pint carrier before in his life, it turns out that yes, his new chum is correct; he is from Caergwrle.

And, as I am going to argue, perhaps with the feeling that I may just be pushing this metaphor a little far, that strange feeling of familiarity with the unfamiliar underlines what this show is like; indeed it seems to be something very Super Furry generally.

It is there from the word go, when hooves gallop over the heads of the crowd and around the hall as the quadrophonic stereo speakers kick into life and the sounds of current album closer, Slow Life, strike up, and we are back in a world where things are seen in FurryVision - a warped take on all that is strange and wonderful in pop. It is somewhere where the keyboardist can leap out and play steel drums rather than just triggering a sample, where yetis play techno - more on that later - and where a band can open a gig with a song which closes their album and close that song with a frontman singing from inside a toy helmet and looking like a Power Ranger.

But there is a reason behind Gruff's seeming eccentricity; something that music journalists often fail to pick up on in their willingness to throw phrases such as "mushroom-addled" into their critical omlettes. There is a keenly thought out process behind SFA's work which is missed. The Power Ranger helmet actually contains a modulator and is being used to add to the sonic pallette of the band; it hasn't just been picked up for a laugh.

And though they are seen as mere Welsh weirdos, many have failed to pick up on the fact that the Super Furry Animals can actually boast a remarkably high hit rate of classic songs. They play a two hour set tonight, but you could still name a fistful of great singles they leave out of the set, never mind more 'fan-friendly' material such as Welsh-language songs or B-sides - with the exception of live favourite Calimero, that is.

The main purpose of the evening is, of course, to run through the current Phantom Power album, and we are lead quickly towards Golden Retriever. But these are no carbon copies; they band seem to delight in taking and tweaking the sonic templates of their songs, pushing them round to see what works. And sometimes, what doesn't.
Hello Sunshine is cheered from its opening Wendy and Bonny sample - half the crowd go ecstatic just as the sample is triggered, and the song proves an early set highlight. But The Piccolo Snare, it has to be said, suffers a little, perhaps because the lovely close harmonies of the record are far trickier to replicate live.

The deceptively lovely anti-war song is actually something of a highlight, but it seems that during the tour it has become apparent to SFA that they cannot sing intricate harmonies and play their instruments to the best of their abuilities, and Gruff is left to take on the brunt of the song alone. While the song retains its power, boosted by a subtly clever visual backdrop where falling bombs become falling crosses (trust me on that one), the harmonies don't come close to the record - perhaps why they didn't try Phantom Power's highlight Venus and Serena.

This lack of faith in their harmonics is odd, as at least three members of SFA - Gruff, drummer Daf and guitarist Bunf - take turns on vocals tonight, with Bunf's turn on Sex, War and Robots showing there are at least two worthy vocalists in this band. (Although the slightest of nagging suspicions remains that Gruff may be trying to sabotage the song, it seems more likely that his guitar just happens to be a little loud for the parts he is trying to play behind Bunf's quieter, more fragile voice.)

He certainly takes a back seat for the none-more metal run-through of Receptacle For the Respectable and Out of Control where images of thrash metal fans are projected onto the screen behind the band - images of headbanging and moshing which could even be of the audience themselves. Particular kudos for the use of effects pedals to get a proper Deicide-style deep metal voice, and for the fact that the band - who end by holding their guitars above their heads in true metal fashion -seem to be having just as much fun as their audience.

And so it goes on. By the time the now-traditional Bill Hicks "All Governments are Liars and Murderers" sample heralds one of the finest modern protest songs, The Man Don't Give a Fuck, they have more than proved their worth.
And in keeping with their tradition of showmanship, just when the song's extended techno coda is drawing to a close, five 'Yetis' who look suspiciously like the band come on and start trashing the stage - a suitably irreverent end to a great night.

Review by Not at 7:15 pm
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OUTSIDE CONTENTS
The F. Word - The Gallery, Oxo Tower Wharf, 01.04
Super Furry Animals - Manchester Academy, 03.30.03
 
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