The Cribs live in London: 20 years in, the indie heroes continue to prove their power

March 11, Roundhouse: Wakefield's long-serving band of brothers remain a formidable and explosive live act

Indie sleaze? Make that indie suave. As fashion revolves and The Cribs and their ebullient fanbase can once more reasonably describe themselves as scenesters, the Jarman brothers greet the return of the zeitgeist slicker and smarter than ever: guitarist and co-vocalist Ryan takes to the Roundhouse stage looking more James Dean than Shaggy.

20 years in, longevity looks good on The Cribs. As they take on the same sort of enduring respect enjoyed by similarly principled US counterparts like Band Of Horses or Spoon, tracks from 2020’s ‘Night Network’ – ‘Never Thought I’d Feel Again’, ‘Running Into You’, ‘I Don’t Know Who I Am’ – are deployed as evidence of how the trio have honed and finessed their volcanic rock over the years, building Beach Boys harmonies and excavating melodic depths behind their scorched-earth surf pop noise.

When bassist Gary notes how difficult the pandemic has been for a “band of brothers”, he could just as easily be referencing the wider Cribs family. They roar out the intro to ‘Another Number’ (The Cribs have chant-along riffs) and make like a geyser erupting to classic Cribs songs of romance, ennui, small-town ambition and undying dedication to rock’n’roll (‘I’m A Realist’, ‘Our Bovine Public’, ‘Come On, Be A No-One’). For the first 45 minutes they’re bombarded with grunge-laced punk pop like a venue besieged, revelling in the hedonistic outsider fatalism of ‘I’m Alright, Me’ (“Take drugs! Don’t eat! Have contempt for those you meet!”) and even lapping up the previously unplayed 2012 B-side ‘On A Hotel Wall’ – no ‘Killing Of A Flash Boy’ as flipsides go, but nonetheless slaps.

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It might all start to feel like exuberant white noise after a while, but for the presence of the acoustic Oasis-like ‘Shoot The Poets’ and their secret weapon. As with Arcade Fire and ‘Wake Up’, The Cribs have a song so stupendous that they could basically sit around picking their arses for the first hour and still pull off one of the best gigs of the year with it. It is, of course, ‘Be Safe’, their monumental poetry rock collaboration with Lee Ranaldo, and a tangible ripple of elation goes around the room as it grinds into life, stays its brooding course, steers on to anthemic freedom and opens all the emotional boxes.

The rest is sheer explosion. The pogo frenzies that greet ‘Mirror Kissers’ and ‘Men’s Needs’ likely start earthquakes in New Zealand, and a final ‘Pink Snow’ builds to a head-spinning psych-rock blitzkrieg. The archetypal band of British indie rock they may be, but time and again, no matter fashion’s vagaries, The Cribs prove their power.

The Cribs played:

‘Running Into You’
‘I’m A Realist’
‘Our Bovine Public’
‘I’m Alright Me’
‘Another Number’
‘Never Thought I’d Feel Again’
‘I Don’t Know Who I Am’
‘Come On, Be A No-One’
‘My Life Flashed Before My Eyes’
‘Swinging At Shadows’
‘On A Hotel Wall’
‘Shoot The Poets’
‘We Share The Same Skies’
‘Screaming In Suburbia’
‘Hey Scenesters!’
‘What About Me’
‘She’s My Style’
‘Be Safe’
‘Mirror Kissers’
‘Men’s Needs’
‘Pink Snow’

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