According to legend Supergrass were The Good Times Band, the sideburn clad soundtrack to record breaking summers, hosepipe bans, Britpop, and the collapse of the Tory government. Yet there was always a lot more to them than that – indeed, the eagerness of some to simply judge by The Hits marks the Oxford outfit as one of their era’s more misjudged, and potentially under-rated, groups.
So they’ve got a point to prove. Signalling their reformation with a top secret performance at Glastonbury aligned event the Pilton Party, Supergrass announced a further show at London’s Oslo venue. Selling out within minutes – well, more like seconds, if we’re being exact – they arrive onstage all grins and bashful moves, but with an obvious point to prove.
Leafing through their catalogue, it’s a singles-ready, hits-forward set, but this also helps to underline their dexterity. A sludgy, slightly slowed down version of ‘Caught By The Fuzz’ – a single so early it was written for pre-Supergrass group The Jennifers – is a case in point. Rumbling and intense, its message of youthful disobedience and the sobering repercussions remains one of the most perfectly complete lyrics of their, or any other, catalogue.
‘Mansize Rooster’ feels short and snappy, a taut, visceral, ear-splitting run through of its freakbeat riffing, before Supergrass plunge into ‘Lose It’. There’s colour galore, and the venue is wall to wall smiles – Gaz switches between guitars, too, donning an acoustic to illuminate the more bittersweet elements of their legacy.
‘Mary’ has a sombre late summer feel, more wistful than melancholic, before ‘Late In The Day’ emerges to an outpouring of cheers. Switching back into electric mode, Supergrass push ‘Richard III’ right into the edge, a caveman stomp that feels more like Seattle than chucking out time at the Good Mixer.
‘Pumping On Your Stereo’ gains an en masse singalong, before a ragged ‘Strange Ones’ arrives to serve reminder on the group’s roots. Teasing the crowd with promise of “a rare album track” Gaz Coombes then yelps into ‘Alright’, and for a second – a brief second – the outside world dissipates, the economy strengthens, and the creaking government gives way.
With its effortlessly jaunty piano and breezy lyric ‘Alright’ taps into the elixir for perpetual youth, its impish, fags-round-the-bikeshed charm extending carefree adolescence out towards eternity.
But it has to end sometime. A taut, LOUD return, one packed with poise and purpose, Supergrass still feel ragged around the edges. It’s a triumph, for sure, but definitely not a slick one – and all the better for it, too, as a frenetic charge to the finish through evergreen single ‘Sun Hits The Sky’ illuminates.
Returning with cheeky grins and knowing nudges, Supergrass bound through encore opening ‘Lenny’, with its super-charged Led Zeppelin riff bursting at the seams with speed-freak tenacity. The bubbling neo-psychedelic organ on ‘Going Out’ though, points somewhere different; a group bound by an infatuation for music, Supergrass’ ability to craft radio-perfect singles masks their innate musicality, and their ability to side-step trends and aim for the heart.
It’s a terrific performance, one that reminds you just how vital – and how loved – that Supergrass catalogue remains.
Can they rock Ally Pally? I Should Coco!
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Caught by the Fuzz
Late in the Day
Pumping on Your Stereo
Sun Hits the Sky
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