'The surrealist narrative adds to the slightly disorientating structure of the evening'
Hywel Roberts

13:50 8th May 2014

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Indie hero turned troubadour Gruff Rhys brings his madcap tale of Welsh ancestry rampaging around the New World to Soho tonight (7 May, 2014).

It's a fascinating story, told through songs from Rhys's latest album, American Interior, and beautifully shambling spoken word interludes. Based on the legend of distant relative John Evans, who was himself retracing the steps of mythical 12th century figure Prince Madoc, it's easy to lose yourself in the clearly insane traveller's adventures.

The story itself is worth the entrance fee, but it's the songs that really steal the show. American Interior's title track has the audience transported to the inhospitable American wastelands of the 18th century, and perfectly encapsulates the sense of wonder and terror a lone adventurer might have felt.

'Lost Tribes' is ostensibly about Native Americans hidden in the wilderness but includes existential elements that bring it closer to home.

Rhys puts so much humour and charm into the tale of Evans that it's impossible not to root for him as he makes his way across America. His jokes about peat-fuelled internet connections and a Mediaeval Cardiff International Airport get genuine laughs, and the surrealist narrative adds to the slightly disorientating structure of the evening.

By the time '100 Unread Messages', an ode to those left behind by fleet-footed adventures, comes around, the whole of the Soho audience is completely immersed in Evans' tale.

Rhys plays a crowd-pleasing encore of 'Honey All Over', descending into as electro an ending as he can get away with in small theatre, and holds numerous placards aloft with instructions for the crowd. Then he's off, leaving the stage with little ceremony but plenty of applause.

Gruff Rhys is sometimes seen as something of an oddity. He never fitted in with the Britpop crowd (in truth The Super Furry Animals were dragged down by poor timing) and he's a little too restless to be a wizened folk singer.

Tonight shows that he has plenty to offer. Singer, raconteur and part-time comedian, he has more strings to his bow than the ancient Welsh tribes who some claim wandered the banks of the Missouri River.

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