“It’s a pleasure to be touring with the best indie band in the business”.
Frankie Francis – lead singer of tonight’s second support act Frankie and the Heartstrings – is at the very least a gracious guest. Taking time out from prancing and thrusting his way through his bands half hour set, Frankie’s kind words about the evening’s headliners not only showcase his fine manners but also stir up a previously sedate crowd. For until that moment, an eerie atmosphere had engulfed the Barbican. Maybe it was the fault of first support act Milk Maid, whose low-fi, feedback drenched sound set an oddly hypnotic tone, soothing rather than enlivening the few who’d bothered to turn up early. Or maybe it had something to do with the setting – a vast echoey room that better resembled a Sports Hall than a rock-gig venue.
Whatever the reason for the subdued mood, and despite the earlier fleeting sign of life, Fankie and co’s gallant attempts at adding some energy ultimately prove futile. Either tonight’s crowd is made up of lifeless bores or they’re simply not interested in hearing 3 minute indie pop songs sung by a posing pretty boy. Turns out it’s the latter. Within just minutes of marching onstage and diving straight into ‘Come On, Be a No-One’, The Cribs find themselves overlooking a swirling onrush of chaos. The lead single from their latest album In the Belly of the Brazen Bull essentially consists of one monstrous hook that sucks you in and doesn’t let go for 2 minutes. Live, it’s relentless. Breath is barely drawn before ‘Our Bovine Public’ is unleashed, a song defined by lead singer Ryan Jarman’s ferocious delivery; he doesn’t so much sing the frantic verses as spit them all over the front row.
Although both other Jarman brothers also star (bassist Gary and drummer Ross), it is Ryan who shines brightest on the night. Whereas in the past he has come across as slightly gobby and petulant, tonight he has the poise of a proper rock-star. It could be that he’s just taken time to grow into the role – as he himself points out with great pride, The Cribs have now been touring for ten years and their set is almost a celebration of this achievement. They pepper the night with favourites spanning their entire career, from current single ‘Anna’ to their most successful hit ‘Men’s Needs’ via the rare debut album track ‘Tri’elle’ (a song the band confess to not playing, rehearsing or even thinking about for the past 8 years).
Despite the landmark anniversary, there’s no sign of complacency within the ranks. In fact, if the rabidly urgent manner in which the final tracks ‘The Wrong Way to Be’ and ‘City of Bugs’ are rattled out is any indicator, there’s plenty of life left in The Cribs yet. “I don’t like swearing on stage York, but you’ve been fucking great”. I think we’ll let you off on this occasion, Ryan.By Ali Mills