The Cribs @ The Assembly, Leamington Spa – Monday 5th November 2012

“Brian May’s playing here t’morra, we should stay over and hang out wi’ Bri.” The Cribs‘ Ryan Jarman, himself the owner of as distinctive a hair style as the poodle-headed legend, seemed genuinely excited at the unlikely prospect of meeting up with his “hero”, to the point of engaging the crowd in the a capella section of Bohemian Rhapsody before winging it through the guitar section.

And that’s probably where any comparison between The Cribs and Queen ends with a crash, a whole load of bangs and a wallop befitting Bonfire Night, as mic stands and guitars hit the back line and Ryan himself narrowly missed becoming a casualty, saved only by a quick thinking roadie, (“He saved me life”), as he fell off the side of The Assembly stage.

Things have become surely a little less sedate in Cribs Town in the months since Johnny Marr left the Jarman Brothers to their own devices. The last time they appeared at The Assembly there was just that bit more finesse; that bit more control. Happily the musicality and breadth of sound has remained, at least judging from this outing.

Johnny may be history but they couldn’t do without a second guitarist altogether, hiding live member David Jones at the back. We Share the Same Skies and City of Bugs from Ignore the Ignorant needed that extra layer of sound which was a feature of that whole album.

On a night that was not without a few gremlins (Bohemian Rhapsody acted as audience participation-led filler following a guitar and drums version of It Was Only Love during running repairs to the bass amp), The Cribs were back to basics, the sound becoming rougher as the energy increased, through a set list that mixed a good half-dozen or so new songs with the familiar.

Ryan loves himself a bit. The hair is now at least half way to the full Clint Boon circa late ’80s, and the body thinner and more toned, shown off under a fetching wife-beater, once the Parka was jettisoned. He has this kind of diffident charm; not much seems to bother him. He did call a halt to the whole thing complaining about something in his shoe, only to find it was a 20p piece. Cue a load of abuse from his brothers about pop stars and money.

I suppose that trails the main question about the band, now five albums in. In the Belly of the Brazen Bull, released earlier this year was the second top 10 charting album of their careers, probably ensuring their future and their billing. But Ryan’s comments about it, sarcastically thanking the crowd for getting the album to the No.9 position seemed ambivalent. Claiming that the band will just do what they do and they weren’t really bothered about chart places he was coy about the success: “… not bothered, or are we?”. Like a lot of bands they have a strong following but world domination doesn’t come from the tours that they undertake. That’s fine by this music snob. Venues like the Assembly are exactly where this band should be, where Ryan can reach out and touch the crowd, where he can talk to us like we’re all his mates, where he can lead the sing-alongs or call and response each time the opening notes of I’m A Realist or Hey Scenesters! get recognised.

Be Safe saw Lee Ranaldo’s big mush appear on the backdrop for his monologue, and for what seemed to me to be a different version of the song. The only slight personal dampener was the absence of We Were Aborted in favour of Don’t You Wanna Be Relevant?. This was democracy in action; the crowd were asked to choose and the “Relevant” bunch shouted the loudest.

As usual, and in the style of The Wedding Present, there were no encores.

I know it would be much too much to expect a crowd of kids to be word perfect to Mirror Kisses in thirty-odd years time, the world has changed too much since Bohemian Rhapsody became such a monster. But it would be nice to think that Brian May would like The Cribs. I hope they left a message on his dressing room door.

Set list:

Come On, Be a No-One
Our Bovine Public
Girls Like Mystery
We Share the Same Skies
Glitters Like Gold
Jaded Youth
You Were Always the One
To Jackson
Back to the Bolthole
I’m a Realist
Mirror Kissers
Another Number
Pure O
Be Safe (with Lee Ranaldo backing AV)
Hey Scenesters!
Men’s Needs
It Was Only Love
Bohemian Rhapsody
Don’t You Wanna Be Relevant?
The Wrong Way to Be
City of Bugs

Review by Ian Gelling
Photography by Stephanie Colledge

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