LIVE: The Cribs / The Blinders - Sheffield O2 Academy, 04/02/2022

LIVE: The Cribs / The Blinders – Sheffield O2 Academy, 04/02/2022

It’s the way of the world these days that bands can tour albums that have been out for a while, in the case of The Cribs tonight is ostensibly part of the Night Network tour, though that album came out fifteen months ago now (and the tour rearranged as many others have been)! And as there are no Wakefield or Leeds dates on the tour, this is the closest thing to a hometown gig, which the atmosphere tonight at Sheffield Academy bears out.

Before we get to see the Jarman brothers though, we have a support slot from The Blinders, who, because The Cribs tend to personally hand pick ‘special guests’ who they really like, are given a generous 45 minute set to make their mark. Now, I am going to be honest here; I saw The Blinders back in 2017 when there was quite a buzz around them, and really wasn’t too keen at all. However, the transformation in the Doncaster band in the intervening period is startling; the songs and aesthetic now have a sort of Heaven Up Here-era Bunnymen crossed with prime Chameleons feel about them, a kind of menacing but melodic quality. Opener ‘Barefoot Across Your Water’ is staggeringly good, perhaps the best song I have heard this year (it’s part of their Electric Kool-Aid E.P. which was launched in January). There’s a lot of variety in the songs too and the band’s delivery is tight and powerful.

Walking onstage to Flying Pickets’ 1983 Christmas Number 1 ‘Only You’, there’s immediately palpable affection for The Cribs, who launch into ‘Running Into You’, lead single from the aforementioned eighth Cribs album Night Network. The triumphant atmosphere continues with crowd favourite ‘I’m A Realist’ with twin frontmen (literally) Ryan and Gary Jarman trading the song’s lines with each other as younger brother Ross performs his usual percussive heroics over on the drums. The 2007 album Men’s Needs, Women’s Needs, Whatever is arguably the ultimate Cribs’ album and still provides a good chunk of the set, with the frantic ‘Our Bovine Public’ next along to the party.

We delve further into the past for a joyous ‘I’m Alright Me’ and an early airing of ‘Another Number’, fans as usual singing along to the guitar riff of the old favourite. All of the band’s albums will be represented tonight, except for 2017’s 24-7 Rock Star Shit. We get a song dedicated to the ‘members of the Sonic Blew Singles Club’, a reference to the four 7” singles released late last year on the band’s own Sonic Blew imprint – that song is ‘Swinging At Shadows’ and is absolutely wonderful, classic Cribs, bittersweet and singalong euphoric at the same time. It’s as good as any single they have ever released.

The five Night Network tracks played tonight are received almost as rapturously as the old favourites, while ‘Come On, Be A No-One’ is the only track played from 2012’s excellent In The Belly Of The Brazen Bull and follows Ryan’s enquiry as to whether anyone ever spilled a blue Slush Puppy on the carpet of a 1980s holiday camp. Most people did, apparently. Of course!

The band play with an absolute intensity – they have a perfect balance of power and self-effacing humour, never taking themselves seriously, but the music…they definitely take that seriously and never give less than everything (it isn’t the first time I’ve seen them – it isn’t the first time I’ve seen them this week!) For fans who like to follow the band around, they have the decency of playing around with the set list from night to night, so surprises can still happen even in these days where set lists from previous nights can be viewed beforehand. Tonight we get a treat in the form of early single ‘What About Me’ and even superb B-side ‘On A Hotel Wall’, a song that incidentally my usual Cribs buddy has been waiting to hear them play live for ten years (but tonight he sadly isn’t here!)

Men’s Needs… centrepiece ‘Be Safe’ is always a highlight and tonight is no exception, though this tour has no screen showing Sonic Youth’s Lee Ranaldo’s face (his words are still audible) and then that album’s title track follows a spirited ‘Mirror Kissers’ and the roof of the Academy has to be checked to see if it’s still there.  The Cribs don’t do encores, so when the opening notes of frequent closer ‘Pink Snow’ are heard, it looks like it might soon all be over. It does indeed turn out to be the final song, but the crowd leave Sheffield Academy happy. All is clearly not well with the world at the moment, but tonight The Cribs manage to suspend grim reality for 90 minutes and give 2,000 people another glorious night in their company. There’s no-one to touch them.

God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.