Screams of ‘Wakefield! Wakefield! Wakefield!’ in butchered Yorkshire accents filled the packed crowd of Manchester Academy. It was full of old and young fans, all united by the fact that this chant would summon their entertainment for the evening and, it did. The Jarman brothers stepped out to a loud roar and before we could all savour the moment we were straight into Our Bovine Public and The Cribs were as fresh as they were in 2007.
Unlike many British bands who taste success, The Cribs have not changed in their personalities and drive and still possess the youthful excitement they did when they first appeared on the scene. Changing their sound regularly and amassing a huge fan base varying in age over the years, The Cribs decided to commence on an anniversary tour of their 2007 album Men’s Needs, Women’s Needs, Whatever. With prices that reflect their humble attitude and approach to fame, they prove themselves to be exactly what I believe British rock bands should model themselves on.
Our Bovine Public unfairly erupted with no warning and I was dragged and battered before I could even line up my vocals with Ryan’s screams over that distinctive riff. This only intensified as Girls Like Mystery and the anticipated Men’s Needs were played in quick succession. It seemed like a band playing fresh from releasing the album as they played with no complaints from us, not that we were taking much notice of if they played the right chords as we were shifting from different sides of the Academy with every song.
Moving Pictures offered us a rest that we did not accept. Just like The Cribs have tried to perfect, the studio and live versions of their songs sounded near identical. Like many of their previous albums, they refused to release polished versions and wanted to encapsulate a sense of urgency and madness. They did not release Men’s Needs… after all for their bank balance or their egos, they released it for the kids they once were and any kids growing up bored and with music as their only escape. As Gary Jarman once eloquently put in an interview, ‘[the reason punk inspired me] was because I was a disenfranchised kid, in a small town who was bored… and I think that’s a reason why punk will always appeal to people’. With this record, there is a sense of that coming through and the aim of them trying to emulate that very influence.
A stranger grabbed me and put his arm around my shoulder as we duetted Gary and Ryan’s vocals for I’m A Realist, dare I say done better than the brothers themselves. This live performance gave me a newfound appreciation for this song that I could not get from the recorded version. The riff sounded different, the bass was louder and Ross’s drums were perfectly in time with our feet. I would spend the next few days listening to this song as if it had been newly released on that very Friday night. Major’s Titling Victory, Women’s Needs, I’ve Tried Everything and My Life Flashed Before My Eyes all followed. This for me was when I could appreciate Gary’s bass playing and stage presence. Listening through, some of these songs do blend together and it is hard distinguishing the difference soemtimes, and with that my only criticism is over and I am back to singing their praises.
Everyone knew what song was next as the lights dimmed and Gary stepped forward. A simple bass riff started and the biggest reaction of the night from the crowd came before Lee Ranaldo spoke, ‘one of those fucking awful black days’. Be Safe. Everyone around me in unison were speaking, well shouting, the words perfectly before Ryan’s backing vocals were introduced and everyone’s singing parts had altered. The build up to the chorus was amplified in that Manchester venue, strangers singing; sharing the same emotion felt from the deep (but seemingly nonsensical and simple) lyrics. Two songs remained of the album, a hectic Ancient History and an acoustic Shoot The Poets. Again, I appreciated seeing the latter more live than listening to the recorded version and I was mesmerised by Ryan’s acoustic guitar solo and soft vocals, carried by the crowd singing back.
I believed that to be the end of the set but in fitting The Cribs fashion, we were treated to more than our money’s worth with an incredible 8 more songs. This night saw the live debut of Fairer Sex, an underrated favourite of mine and also the album B-side Don’t You Wanna Be Relevant? Highlights of the encore were Different Angle, Mirror Kissers and Pink Snow. I prayed they would play some The New Fellas material which came true but then again, I had also prayed that Johnny Marr would make a beloved return on stage in his hometown with the best band he’s worked with in 25 years (his words). But that dream sadly did not come true. Mirror Kissers proved to be a more battering and lively performance than the first song had and I was shattered. The relief that Pink Snow was the next song overcome me and It was an emotional and perfect end to the night. They walked off and thus we were done. Months of waiting had finished and an air of satisfaction lingered as we were ushered out.
A rare band in today’s competitive industry, The Cribs continue to generate excitement and reinforce their renowned popular live performances. They seem timeless and likeable. You compare them to bands of their day who had success and you would find hardly any, maybe none, that would tour in medium-sized venues charging the same prices as they had did a decade before. They have an infectious passion about them and will no doubt sound as fresh and energetic on the 2027 anniversary tour of Men’s Needs, Women’s Needs, Whatever.
Words by Jack Wager.
Featured image courtesy of Priti Shikotra/Aesthetic Magazine: https://aestheticmagazinetoronto.com/2017/05/13/photos-the-cribs-god-damn-slotface-manchester-academy/