Live Review: The Cribs – Wedgewood Rooms, Portsmouth (14/02/15)

Valentine’s Day 2015. Portsmouth.

The Wedgewood Rooms was slowly filling with music fans of all ages, which was surprising considering the headlining band this evening was none other than The Cribs – northern, indie rapscallions, notorious for the high energy chaos that is their live shows. I couldn’t exactly imagine the group of middle aged music fans standing next to me getting involved in a mosh pit. There were more than a few couples too, seemingly thinking that a violent, sweaty rock show is their idea of a romantic night out. Nonetheless, the steadily growing crowd seemed chilled and happy to be there.

Supporting band Menace Beach were the first to entertain the audience, which had not quite substantiated the sold out status yet, and seemed to do so relatively well. Their grungey, punk music was in some ways reminiscent of Nirvana (not only because the lead singer had the long blonde resemblance to Kurt Cobain) but with lead vocals giving off a Placebo vibe. Their sound was an appropriate lead up to the main act, with loud and messy guitars, shouty vocals and some lovely, echoing female backing vocals – very Kim Deal. As is obvious, there’s a whole range of different bands that Menace Beach could have taken inspiration from, which gave them a solid and interesting sound. However, it didn’t go much further and it would have been nice to see a bit more diversity in their songs.

Around 10pm, the main lights dipped and plunged the Wedge into darkness once more. It was time for The Cribs to arrive, and after a short introduction, the Jarman brothers burst into life with ‘Mirror Kissers’. It took little more than a few chords for the crowd to descend into chaos, the killer hooks encouraging sing-a-longs from the crowd and those lucky enough to be front and centre to the band threw themselves into an exhausting looking mosh pit. Cups were thrown emphatically into the air as The Cribs performed tightly and with the zealousness you’d expect from a band who’ve been in the game for well over a decade.

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After playing new song ‘An Ivory Hand’, The Cribs greeted us with their staple Wakefield hellos and confirmed it’d been “long time, no see”. There were clearly fans of every ilk in the house on this night – old, new, and those just discovering The Cribs. There was even a token crazy woman, who clearly had never heard of The Cribs before but just fancied taking some form of illegal substance and air guitaring the night away. Marvellous.

The next track on the list had the crowd at their rowdiest so far – ‘Come On, Be A No-One’ prompted an array of different beverages to be launched across the room, droplets of water and beer decorating the venue and glistening in the multi coloured lights as the crowd jumped around in the most carefree of manners. The Cribs responded by giving out just as much enthusiasm, and thoroughly cemented the feeling that they are indeed one of the best live bands out there.

The first crowd surfer of the night coincided with the second new song The Cribs performed. Their upcoming album ‘For All My Sisters’ made quite the debut on this tour, and the crowd reaction was more than welcoming. ‘Different Angle’ was all you’d expect from The Cribs and more – low fi guitars and typical Cribsesque hooks that, despite being unheard of before now, had the crowd immediately singing along.

The next few songs went along in a frenzied blur, with much screaming and unwavering crowd participation – Ryan Jarman even plunged his microphone into the crowd at one point, leaving one female fan incredibly happy as she sang along, tuneless but ecstatic. Throughout the night, the crowd had been reciting the guitar riff to ‘Another Number’, so when it finally appeared, chaos was induced. So much so that they continued to sing the chant later in the evening, to which the Jarmans replied in their simple, northern drawl “we just played that one, where were you? Were you still down at the pub?”

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Upon playing their latest single ‘Burning For No-One’, it was great to see that in a matter of weeks, the crowd has already deemed this a fan favourite. Although the atmosphere at the Wedge had a slight sense of ebb and flow throughout the night, when the peaks occurred, they were nothing short of spectacular.

As the night progressed well into its second half, the Jarmans wished us a happy Valentine’s Day, which left Ryan Jarman playing a snippet from ‘It Was Only Love’ before treating us to another new one. It was following this, however, when the evening really hit its second wind. ‘We Share The Same Skies’ lifted spirits in the Wedgewood Rooms as high as I’d seen them all night, and the next song ‘Pink Snow’ (although another new one) got a great reception. From its slow and delicate beginnings, ‘Pink Snow’ explodes into hard and heavy guitars and is an amalgamation of angst, guitars and a blatant punk ethos that you’d struggle to find anywhere quite on the same level as The Cribs.

‘I’m a Realist’ is one of those band defining tracks that we all know everyone is secretly waiting for throughout the set. So as they performed a slow intro and burst into the riff, every word and guitar note of the track was sung back in unison, the venue buzzing with the elation of each person in there. After being punctuated with another new song, ‘Mr Wrong’, (probably the least impressive of their new material) the mood was lifted once more with the remaining three songs in the set.

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Having already asked if there were any old school Cribs fans in the room, its no surprise that each and every song on the set was greeted with unrivalled enthusiasm. As they performed ‘Hey Scenesters’ and ‘Men’s Needs’ it was clear the set was nearing its end. They had managed to cram 19 (and a half ) songs into less than an hour and a half and with that, The Cribs had undeniably shown Portsmouth a wonderful evening. This was the first headlining show they’d played in Portsmouth since 2006, and as they departed with ‘City of Bugs’, they ended the show in true Cribs fashion. Falling about all over the floor, throwing microphones across the stage and making just about as much noise as they could, The Cribs ended their evening with Portsmouth in the best way possible. And as Ryan Jarman removed his guitar and threw it forcefully to the floor as he left the stage, our night came to an end.

I think the fact that The Cribs performed no encore supports the feeling that they’re a genuine and hard working band who give their all to their music. Why fake an encore? Leave them on a high. At the end of the evening there was no doubt left in my mind, whether you like their music or not, that The Cribs stand to be one of the greatest live bands out there – but then again, I suppose that wouldn’t have made much of a review.

Photos: Sarah Carter