The Student Playlist

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LIVE REVIEW: The Cribs @ Millennium Square, Leeds, 22/07/2016

by Ed Biggs and John Tindale

The angular, acoustically unfriendly environs of Leeds’ Millennium Square is the setting for The Cribs’ latest homecoming spectacular. The square has always felt quite hemmed in when adapted to be used as an open-air city centre venue, with gigs there never quite feeling large enough to feel like really big events, and the sound invariably ricocheting off the tall buildings that surround it. However, it’s unquestionably a lot bigger than the nearby O2 Academy, the venue which hosted a two-night ‘Cribsmas’ special in December 2013 that represented the band’s last homecoming gig, so it feels like a logical step-up for the brothers Jarman.

This balmy Friday evening in question is the first of three open-air gigs in the city centre – the ghastly dad-rock of Ocean Colour Scene will be polluting Leeds’ airwaves over the coming two evenings – so it’s down to the Wakefield trio to create some righteous noise. As such, they’ve effectively been given the keys to the whole event, selecting artists with whom they share geographical origins (Menace Beach and Pulled Apart By Horses) or ideological goals (The Thurston Moore Group) to set them up for a memorable evening.

The devotees have turned up, en masse. Standing in the strategically sound position of dead centre, next to the sound-desk, we even meet a young couple who’ve travelled from Ukraine to catch them. One of them hails from nearby Huddersfield originally, and tells us that there’s no other band he’s heard in his life that have meant as much to him, who’ve spoken to his own life experiences, or to whom it’s worth giving one’s heart and soul. To be honest, we couldn’t sum up The Cribs’ appeal better if we tried.

Just after 6pm, Leeds band Menace Beach, influenced by the same kind of ‘90s alt-rock as the Jarmans, play a competent, ferociously noisy half-hour that is ultimately too loud for its own good. Given that only a few dozen punters are through the gates by this point, it makes no sense for the volume to be so noisy as to distort the treble. Pulled Apart By Horses, with three albums and plenty of live experience under their belts, don’t suffer the same problem as the first pogoing and moshing of the night begins in earnest down the front. Granted, PABH’s riotous, gleeful post-hardcore kind of depends on volume, but the band’s extra nous makes them a much more enjoyable experience. Playing the next 45-minute support slot is Thurston Moore, previously of alternative rock legends Sonic Youth, with a backing band that improvise their way through just four of his solo tracks. It’s undoubtedly pleasing to see such an icon in the flesh – indeed, the Jarmans themselves can be seen at the side of the stage gazing on admiringly – but most of the crowd is non-plussed by an almost total lack of audience interaction and some stubbornly long sections of ringing feedback and reverb.

The main event rolls around: in a 24-song setlist, The Cribs themselves stick to the tried-and-tested crowd pleasers, with a few old tracks thrown in for good measure. Opening with the comparatively rarely heard ‘Ancient History’, they conduct a 90-minute whistle-stop tour of their back catalogue and execute every moment with extreme professionalism. A delicate rendition of Men’s Needs… acoustic album closer ‘Shoot The Poets’ goes down exceptionally well as a mid-set breather; the underrated ‘The Wrong Way To Be’ gets an outing; my personal favourite Cribs song ‘Moving Pictures’ even makes an appearance. These are all gobbled up by the adoring crowd with the same enthusiasm as the familiar big-hitters (‘Men’s Needs’, ‘We Share The Same Skies’, ‘Hey Scenesters!’, ‘I’m A Realist’, ‘Another Number’ etc.)

Those hoping to hear new music from an upcoming seventh album – the one that was said to be being recorded at the same time as For All My Sisters but much scuzzier – are left disappointed. The newest song, ‘Wish I Knew You In The 90s’, was a B-side from late last year. Then again, these sorts of one-off gigs are a time for reflection, and The Cribs can hardly be blamed for using this stage to conduct a retrospective of their impressive discography. After all, theirs is a story of survival and perseverance. How many of their early noughties garage-rock-revival contemporaries are still going in 2016? Or, if they are, are they still dutifully rewarding their fans and challenging themselves in any relevant or creative way?

None. They may never have been as commercially successful as Kaiser Chiefs, The Libertines, The View and other British groups of their time, but they have outlasted all of them, and that is why The Cribs are worth treasuring more than a decade into their career. Truthfully, the band themselves have probably pulled off better performances than this, but as they said themselves on stage, they won’t have treasured many others more. It is about time they were acknowledged for what they are – a British institution.

Set List: ‘Ancient History’; ‘I’m A Realist’; ‘Different Angle’; ‘Come On, Be A No-One’; ‘Burning For No One’; ‘Glitters Like Gold’; ‘We Were Aborted’; ‘We Share The Same Skies’; ‘Women’s Needs’; ‘Another Number’; ‘An Ivory Hand’; ‘Wish I Knew You In The 90s’; ‘City Of Bugs’; ‘Shoot The Poets’; ‘Simple Story’; ‘Our Bovine Public’; ‘Moving Pictures’; ‘Be Safe’; ‘Hey Scenesters!’; ‘Leather Jacket Love Song’; ‘The Wrong Way To Be’; ‘Mirror Kissers’; ‘Men’s Needs’; ‘Pink Snow’

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