'A gift to the world who makes life just a little bit more interesting'
Hywel Roberts

13:18 12th February 2015

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Gruff Rhys’ American Interior is one of the great multimedia events of the past 12 months. A film, album and seemingly never-ending tour have drilled the tale of reluctant Welsh conquistador John Evans into every indie fan this side of the infinite wilderness of America.

Gigwise was there at the birth of this phenomenon in May of last year. Back then, Rhys was alone with little more than an acoustic guitar and his story to accompany him. Tonight, he brings along a full band to bring to life his concept album, based on his 18th century relative Evans and his historic journey through a largely uncharted North America.

Whereas last year the story was very much the focus, and the songs were rough around the edges and largely unrehearsed, tonight they are slick and to the fore. Rhys introduces each track with a piece of Evans’s fascinating puzzle as he stumbles in a haphazard but determined way into American folklore.

The songs, fully fleshed-out by the accomplished live band, make tonight feel more of a gig with a narrative attached than a presentation interspersed with the occasional tune. And they sound great. If you strip everything away, American Interior is simply a fantastic album. And it’s nice to be reminded that Rhys is a great vocalist, songwriter and musician.

The musical highlight is 'The Swamp', a gorgeous lament reflecting on the lowest ebb Evans faces on his journey. But even when we leave the story behind the music continues. “And now we’ll start the set”, Rhys jokes before he starts '100 Unread Messages'. The following collection of some of his favourite solo tracks feels like a welcome cheese board after an historical and musical feast – the highlight being the hugely underrated 'Gwn Mi Wn'.

American Interior has become a phenomenon bigger than one imagines even Rhys expected a year ago. But although it’s something he has been dining out on for some time, a fact he references when he announces “here tonight for only the seventh time in London, John Evans!”, it still seems fresh and relevant. One day the world will look back at Gruff Rhys and realise he is a man to be treasured through the ages. But tonight we are content to listen, laugh and look as he makes our lives just that little bit more interesting.

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Photo: WENN