Supergrass have come a long way since their heyday as the cheeky-chappy boys of Britpop. However, unlike so many of their Britpop peers they have continued to make albums which have been well received by fans. One does get a sense that they are forever destined to remain on the verges of musical greatness, with critics simply liking their records and repeating the story that they once met Steven Spielberg who wanted to produce a new and updated version of the Monkees TV show, record after record. It seems that they will forever remain, everyone’s second favourite band.
But it was with great pleasure that I was able to attend my first Supergrass concert, so many years after my teenage drunken sing-a-longs at parties and in pubs (Cos were allriiiiggggghhhhht). I did feel that I had missed out on seeing them before, and was glad that I had the chance to experience them live before they quit or I die. The venue was Somerset House – a unique summer venue that was once the Admiralty and is now a museum and art gallery. Within the central gallery a stage has been erected for the now annual series of summer gigs (the Prodigy, Starsailor, Idlewild, Bright Eyes are among some of the names that have been hosted here there this year). The crowd was, as could probably be expected, predominately in their late 20s/early 30s – people who obviously had come to relive their youth for a couple of hours and become that young irresponsible, drunken youth lout once again.
After support from Son of Dave (multi-instrumentalist formerly of the Crash Test Dummies), Supergrass came out to ‘Moving’, one of their more relatively recent hits. With songs like ‘Strange Ones’ and ‘Kiss of Life’, all wonderfully loud, punk, rock, kitsch and nostalgic in all the right places, the band delivered a crowd-pleasing first half performance. ‘Sun Hits the Sky’ was another crowd pleaser, with the fans singing along, a la Oasis, every word bringing back floods of memories of drinking cider on a park bench, or attempting to chat up a bird in some indie night-club, in the crowd. ‘Richard III’ was suitably loud and frantic and represented Supergrass at their best. Caught by the Fuzz’ was the song which seemed to have the best reception, however (and who can blame the crowd – it is a masterpiece of Brit-punk-pop).
Supergrass also presented their new material from their up and coming album, Road to Rouen. These songs represent a huge leap for Supergrass. Sitting on stools and ‘unplugging’ their guitars, parts of the crowd appeared to be disinterested with this and decided to go on beer and toilet runs. Upon first impressions, it appears that Supergrass have delivered a more textured, mature sound. Although it is impossible to draw a complete conclusion after a first listen, this performance did make me want listen to these songs again. Whether the rest of the crowd would agree with me on this is debatable.
Obviously the crowd were more interested in reliving their youth. However, it appears that Supergrass no longer shares this interest and are far too young to become a tribute act. Their new material has forced a conundrum to people who think that Supergrass are their second favourite band. Are these fans prepared to accept Supergrass as a serious, intelligent and complex rock band? I am not so sure that they have done enough to convince these fans, or indeed whether the band themselves really care. Supergrass have decided to explore their musical talents in ways that would have been unexpected some years ago. It is for this reason that I believe that they are more relevant in 2005 than in 1995. I wish them all the best in this musical journey.