Down Liverpool’s most famous staircase, past glass displays holding The Quarrymen’s guitars, on the brick arch facsimile of legend (the original Cavern stage The Beatles played on was about 20 feet away), a wild, screaming pop furore is breaking out. Dual frontmen harmonise “wo-oh!”s over frenetic blasts of roaring beat-rock while the drummer, in buttoned-down Ringo jacket, climbs onto the snare drum to pummel his kit from above. The primary difference between ’62 and ’20 is that, tonight, bar a couple of cameramen, they’re the only three people in the room.
Instead of a well-drilled gigging machine, The Cribs storm The Cavern looking like a garage band reborn. For the past two years their righteous but costly battles with major labels over ownership of their music could easily have left them bankrupt and broken, so their relief and exuberance at playing ‘live’ after a period spent fighting tooth-and-nail for survival gives the stream a palpable sense of celebration, albeit one tinged with a certain frustration at the wider Cribs family having to be cinematically distanced.
They’re here to salute their journey (and their Cavern forebears) as much as christen new album ‘Night Network’, and as the new, fittingly beat-era alt-pop stormer ‘Running Into You’ gives way to a glorious ‘Mirror Kissers’ – with Gary and Ryan harmonising like angelic pack wolves and Ross clambering onto his kit for the military paced middle-eight – it’s like watching a band of heroes’ televised return.
Livestreams can be unforgiving for bands that rage rather than refine. The bum notes and strained melodies that add to the freewheeling punkoid charm of a Cribs gig are forensically exposed by the camera’s steely eye. But they don’t hold back for the lens’s sake. They rip into ‘I’m Alright Me’ (“Take drugs! Don’t eat! Have contempt for those that you meet!”) as if grabbing wildly at its tail for three minutes, then pile straight into ‘Men’s Needs’ knowing that, whatever tempo it ends up at, their war-of-the-sexes hit has a riff that can make an empty room explode.
Besides a mid-set point where they pause to pay their respects to their Britpop godparents, coupling rinky-dink Blur homage ‘It Was Only Love’ with the Noel-ish ‘Shoot The Poets’, plus the odd moment of throat-shredding canyon rock euphoria like ‘Back To The Bolthole’, they keep up a furious garage-pop pace while throwing out thanks in a multitude of languages. This is, after all, an entire world tour crammed into 75 minutes.
The clarity of the format helps focus elements of The Cribs’ music you’d often miss – Ryan’s more evocative guitar work making ‘Burning For No One’ seem weightless or ‘I Don’t Know Who I Am’ sound oceanic; the chic Cardigans undercurrent to ‘You Were Always The One’; the Northern Soul root of ‘Things You Should Be Knowing’, getting its first live outing in 15 years for the occasion. But we’re here for the dizzy rushes of ‘Different Angle’, ‘I’m A Realist’ and ‘Come On, Be A No-One’, the chorus of which is the Jarman’s untamed gutter-pop concentrated.
They close with a ‘Broken Arrow’ so passionate it breaks the internet as surely as if they’d staged a PS5 giveaway, but it’s new track ‘Screaming In Suburbia’ that epitomises the restated passions of the event. “Still the same kids / Screaming in suburbia,” Gary bawls over one of their finest melodies yet, and if The Cavern stream proves anything, it’s that The Cribs have emerged from their darkest period with their original fire undimmed. Being no-ones was never an option.
The Cribs played:
‘I’m A Realist’