Gruff Rhys Horseshoe Tavern, Toronto ON June 11

Gruff Rhys Horseshoe Tavern, Toronto ON June 11
Super Furry Animals frontman Gruff Rhys possesses a kind of bizarre charisma that could only come from over 20 years onstage. Thirty minutes to midnight, the singer clambered onstage and kicked into "Rubble Rubble," off his new album Hotel Shampoo, backed by drums on a 45 player. Rhys's thick Welsh burr occasionally made his lyrics hard to parse but the packed house at the Horseshoe didn't seem to mind; they got even more hyped when Rhys was joined by Welsh surf quartet Y Niwl and launched the show in earnest.

Drawing largely from Shampoo and his prior solo records, Rhys's stage show packs the sonic versatility expected from the man behind SFA. The thudding rock of "In a House with No Mirrors (You'll Never Get Old)" directly followed the delicate folk of "Sophie Softly." Between songs Gruff raised cue cards branded with "Applause" and "Woah!" but truthfully there was no need. His wry banter kept the crowd laughing between songs; of course, the harmonica-driven folk of "The Court of King Arthur" was dedicated to all the archaeologists in the audience. "Ni Yw Y Byd" was one of a handful of Welsh songs, this one explained by Rhys as "something like the Welsh 'We Are the World.'" "Sensations in the Dark" got people swaying with its blend of Brazilian and Mexican sounds, while the Beatles-esque "Honey All Over" slowed things down as the Y Niwl boys chimed in with cooing backup vocals.

"This next part requires commitment," Rhys promised as he and the band returned for an encore. Gruff regaled the audience with a mock airplane safety lecture before launching into "Skylon," a nearly 15-minute yarn about a bomb expert who saves a mediocre actress from a airplane hijacking. Of course, Rhys sung it wearing an emergency airplane life vest. That's what he does.