Singing praises for Gruff’s city show

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A SUPER Saturday afternoon was in store for a packed audience as Sunderland’s Pop Recs hosted its latest performance.

Gruff Rhys visited Wearside for the second time in the space of a month following a successful performance at this summer’s Split Festival.

CITY SHOW: Gruff Rhys as he performs at Sunderland's Pop Recs Ltd.

CITY SHOW: Gruff Rhys as he performs at Sunderland's Pop Recs Ltd.

The Super Furry Animals’ frontman was persuaded to return to play today’s free event by members of Frankie & The Heartstrings, who run the live music venue, record shop and coffee bar in the former information office in Fawcett Street.

In a set that lasted around an hour, he played songs from his latest project American Interior, which follows the story of his ancestor John Evans who went in search of a Welsh speaking tribe in the US, as well as tracks by his band and a series of covers.

He turned to the crowd for help to sing Happy Birthday in Welsh for his daughter in a video message, after booking a host of shows without realising he would miss her big day.

Tonight, he plays a sold out date at Gateshead Town Hall.

Dave Harper, drummer with the Heartstrings, said: “We bullied him to come back.

“I stage-managed at Split as well as playing and spoke to him and he’d heard about us because our manager used to work at Creation Records, so he knows him.

“We identified Gruff as one of the people that would recognise what we’re doing here and he agreed at short notice.

“He’s been one of the most polite and interesting people we’ve had play here. It’s been one of the biggest of the gigs.

“We took him out to have his photograph taken using wet plate photography with Andy Martin, gave him all the facts about Greggs and he’s been to Sunderland before.

“He’s sympathetic to what we’re doing and he came and played for free.”

He added the shop is desperate for donations of records, as well as cash, to ensure its work continues.

“It’s not for us, but so we can keep putting gigs like this on,” said Dave.

Among those to enjoy the show was Mark Dixon, 39, a quality control inspector in the gas and oil industry, who lives in Washington Village.

He said: “It was outstanding.

“It’s brilliant to bring music to people because a lot of people can’t fork out lots of money to see some bands and some charge extortionate prices.
“It’s great to see an artist like Gruff do his bit and it brings him to a new audience.

“It shows there is a strong music scene in the city.”