Since the Covid-19 pandemic has eased up and the live music calendar has filled back up with rescheduled tours and suchlike, it’s been hard to gauge demand for shows and it’s a little disappointing to see a typical “Birmingham Tuesday Night Turnout” at tonight’s gig by indie heroes The Cribs, especially after it’s been pushed back almost two years. Luckily, both the band and their loyal fans are clearly chomping at the bit to get back to the stage and as the first night of a tour initially designed to promote 2020’s ‘Night Network’, there’s at least a bit of a buzz of anticipation as the notoriously hard-working headliners arrive and launch into the sunny ‘Running Into You’. Co-fronted by twin brothers Gary and Ryan Jarman alongside their younger brother Ross on drums, The Cribs have made a career out of constant touring and high-energy performances so their enforced break has been somewhat of an anomaly in their 20-year career to date. Old favourites ‘I’m A Realist’ and ‘Our Bovine Public’ serve to blow away some of the cobwebs and it’s not long before things are up to speed and it’s like the last two years never existed.
With The Cribs, most of their crowd know what to expect by now – they’re a band that embrace the lo-fi DIY ethic and that results in a completely honest performance, warts and all so although Ryan’s vocal on ‘Different Angle’ might be just out of reach and there’s always the possibility of a missed note or two, it’s part of the band’s charm and believability and they invariably make it work. “It’s insane to think that we’ve not played in Birmingham for about 5 years” ponders Gary, and with most of the “new” songs like ‘Never Thought I’d Feel Again’ receiving their first live airings after a year and a half, it can be a little disorientating for everyone. As such, the old tried-and-tested favourites such as ‘Burning For No One’ and ‘Come On, Be A No-One’ tend to be the most effective as they’re more familiar to the crowd and the band seem a little more comfortable in reeling them out in a live setting. “This is like our comeback tour” notes Ryan, “we’ve been semi-retired for the past few years”. It’s true that in places it feels like the band are still trying to find their rhythm again and after ‘I’ve Tried Everything’, Ryan attempts a semi-acoustic ‘Shoot The Poets’ admitting they haven’t really rehearsed it, but it’s nice to hear some deeper cuts get a run-out and a rarely-heard outing for debut single ‘Baby Don’t Sweat’ gets a good reception alongside old favourite ‘Another Number’, even if the crowd are a little quiet. “I thought you were singing?” offers Ryan halfway through.
The climax of the set comes with set staple ‘Be Safe’ featuring a pre-recorded monologue from Sonic Youth man Lee Ranaldo and classic singles ‘Mirror Kissers’ and ‘Men’s Needs’ finally spark some much-needed energy before the epic slow-burner ‘Pink Snow’ brings things to a close. No encores, no pretence, just The Cribs doing what they do best – their own take on punk rock delivered as best they can. It’s great to have them back.
Support comes from Manchester-based The Blinders, who suffer a little from going onstage to meet the early arrivals and a need to rise up through their own gears before things start to click. ‘40 Days And 40 Nights’ is an early example of what they do well, with psychedelic organ and tense guitars whilst ‘The Writer’ features a dramatic vocal delivery from frontman Thomas Haywood.
It takes a few songs before they start to hit their stride, and by the time they reach ‘L’Etat C’est Moi’ they’re sounding excellent with an unsettling dark tone reminiscent of Drenge or the discordant grunge of The Cooper Temple Clause. Meanwhile ‘Hate To See You Tortured’ and ‘Et Tu’ are just as intense and see bassist Charlie dancing with his hands and stepping onto the monitors at the front of the stage. New single ‘Fight For It’ ends the set with a somewhat lighter outlook and a hooky chorus and despite the crowd’s lethargy, there’s glimpses of brilliance even if the band aren’t quite up to full speed or with a captive audience to feed from.
Photographs by Stephanie Colledge
Review by: Ian Paget