The Press Article
They're no longer cartoons, but they are supported by Bugs Bunny.
University Of East Anglia, Norwich
January 17, 1998
A thousand primped and pumped undergraduates clutch plastic pint pots to their collective bosom and gaze enraptured at a big screen showing Bugs Bunny cartoons...
It's as if the breeze-block bunker that is the UEA Student Union has been suddenly transformed from subsidised-bar Babylon into a gleeful Saturday morning matinee fleapit. This animated adolescent tone-setting seems entirely appropriate given tonight's real-life star attractions; those diminutive toons with tunes, Supergrass.
This is the first date of the band's rearranged UK tour (November's original shows were nixed after drummer Danny Goffey broke his hand in a fit of road-rage pique) and, despite some confidence-boosting pre-Christmas Wembley dates opening for Oasis, it's clear from the moment the elegantly dishevelled Oxfordians burst into a hyper-active I'd Like To Know, that this will be a show fuelled for the most part by opening night adrenaline.
The concrete acoustics prove less forgiving to full-frontal rock'n'roll than Merrie Melodies and Loony Tunes but, sonic privations apart, Gaz Coombes and the gang are quickly into their stride, peeling off amphetamine-paced miniatures of In It For The Money and Cheapskate, the latter recalling The Jam's Precious with an added dollop of anthemic chorus. There's hardly a moment to draw breath, literally for those less hardy stage-front moshers, a few of whom are swiftly delivered St. John's Ambulance-wards.
After the unrelenting Britpop jollity of Mansize Rooster there's a much needed change of pace as Gaz Coombes's green Burns six-string churns out the opening riff of Time and the band kick in with a liquid aplomb often masked during their faster numbers. In fact it's the subtler You Can See Me - a Rubber Soul-period Beatles minor chord shuffle featuring live-only Supergrasser Rob Coombes's burbling Fender Rhodes - and Late In The Day, with its complicated drums and Gaz's throaty croon, that are most impressive.
Of course the faithful go bananas as rockney staccato piano introduces the ubiquitous Alright - and they stay that way even during a beat group excursion through Mickey Newbury's Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In), a hit for Kenny Rogers & The First Edition. The New York Dolls-esque Lose It steps back on the gas and shows-off bassist Mickey Quinn's gurning-faced harmony skills, while the irresistibly mellifluous Sun Hits The Sky - presaged by Gaz's not entirely unironic question, "What's it like living in Norwich?" - sees even the engineering students at the back attempting something akin to dancing.
A perfunctory - save for an extended guitar solo - Going Out; a harmony-laden Sometimes I Make You Sad and a valedictory thrash through Caught By The Fuzz climax a set whose 16 numbers have raced by in a blur.
A good thing, then, that Gaz takes his time with the first encore. Accompanied only by his brother Rob (one of rock'n'roll's few astro-physics degree-holding keyboardists) and his plaintive acoustic guitar, It's Not Me, a keening confession almost worthy of Brian Wilson, is as delicate and introvert as Supergrass get. In contrast, breakneck Merseybeat-meets-grunge versions of Strange Ones and Lenny close preceedings much as they had commenced, this time accompanied by an almost epilepsy-inducing lighting wig-out and some unrestrained last-gasp moshpit mayhem.
Odd them, that after two platinum albums and endorsements by everyone from Noel Gallagher to Steven Spielberg, Supergrass still seem content to play relatively small venues.
"I wouldn't like to do an arena tour." opines Gaz matter-of-factly. "If we ever were to do it, we'd have to make it something strange, three nights in an odd venue or something."
So those Oasis support slots didn't give the band a taste for the full-on rock extravaganza?
"It didn't feel big. In fact it was quite relaxing as it wasn't our gig, but I like Wembley Arena, it's one for the future."
This seems like a watershed moment for Supergrass. As Britpop wanes, will their star continue to rise?
"There isn't any grand plan, it still feels quite early to us," Mickey Quinn agrees. "We still operate on a not-knowing-what's-going-to-happen-next basis."
"I don't think we've even found our sound yet," interjects Danny Goffey, "give us a couple more albums and we might have it."
Gaz is dismissive of lingering damage from the poisonous Britpop tag.
"I don't think it was ever that relevant to us. When people asked us about it, we didn't really know what to say. It ws never a movement that was defined by fashion, politics or anything we could comment on. Having said that, it probably did us shitloads of good. I'm sure it sold us records."
So, level-headed but not without ambition, Supergrass - far from being the precocious cartoon-urchins-on-a-roll of popular opinion - seems intent on a slow and steady building process.
Mickey Quinn sums up their ethos. "We don't want to slash and burn obviously, but neither do we want to get too po-faced and turn into a horrible prog band."
David Sheppard, Q - March 1998