The Cribs, ULU, 28 February 2012

This is The Cribs’ first headline show in London since 2010, and since ex-Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr left the band.

The three Wakefield brothers are back on their own, and by the sound of new track Chi Town, they’re back to making the shouty, distortion-filled indie their fans first fell for. Performing tonight at the University of London’s SU, they’re bringing intimacy back to their gigs.

The effective cafeteria-with-a-stage is packed with groups of lads drinking all the beer they can and chanting their favourite Cribs riffs at the top of their voices. They’ve been waiting for this night for a long time.

Finally, the lights fade and the band emerges sporting a fresh trio of bad haircuts and scruffy T-shirts – their trademark look.

No time is wasted before they launch into Chi Town, and all hell breaks loose in the crowd. They push, shove and scream the words as lead singer Ryan Jarman pushes his voice to the limit. The room is alight with pure energy.

The buzz remains for two more tracks, Cheat On Me and I’m A Realist. Scarcely 10 minutes into the gig and sweat is already hanging in the air.

But then Ryan announces they’re about to play a new one, promising: “It’s better than all that old stuff” in a broad Yorkshire accent. The audience is still, respectful, paying attention. The new sound is loud and ferocious, and gets as good a reaction as can be expected when no one’s heard it before.

Five more minutes of sweaty madness and two beloved old favourites later, the room goes quiet again. A look of concentration sweeps the crowd as people try to figure out what they’re playing. It’s another new one – slower this time, but still noisy. There is a sense of hope in the atmosphere that this will be the last unheard song the fans will have to endure. They want hits. They want nostalgia.

And they get it, up to a point. Classic Cribs tracks Hey Scenesters! and Another Number go down a treat, even if the energy is beginning to wane down the front. They’re brilliant songs – so well-known that the band can let the crowd sing for them.

But there is more new material to come and, good as it probably is with a few more listens, there is a feeling of restlessness amongst the punters.

“We’ve got two more. We still don’t do encores,” announces Ryan, cuing a brilliant rendition of Our Bovine Public which will be responsible for many an aching limb in the morning. By this point ULU has become the world’s most action-packed sauna.

Ryan keeps to his word: there is no encore. Hard to believe as it is, they end it on the relatively slow album track that is The City Of Bugs. There was no Mirror Kissers and no Martell.

Some of the crowd favourites may be falling by the wayside, but The Cribs have proven they can still put on a thundering good show. And by the time they’re back in London in May, a dedicated fanbase like this will no doubt have learned every word to those new tracks.

By Sophie Armour

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