The Cribs - The Ritz, Manchester - 5/2/09

11 Feb 2009

"it is an arresting sight; arguably one of the best british bands in recent times, flanked by johnny marr, with the enlarged face of lee ranaldo peering over their heads from behind..."

The Cribs

Road testing new material was the primary purpose for this 'intimate' tour, however it isn't so much the new songs that have been generating Cribs directed attention recently, but rather a certain new member of the band.

No stranger to stepping into established line-ups, Johnny Marr's previous temporary abodes have seen him link up with the likes of Beck, Oasis and Modest Mouse to name but a few. However, it is this latest collaboration that has raised more than a few eyebrows with fans from both sides. Whilst stalwart Marr followers are wondering what the great elder statesman is doing with a bunch of rag tag upstarts from Wakefield, the Cribs ardently fanatical support are wondering how the addition of someone old enough to be the Jarman brothers' father will do much to improve an already brilliant band (see Mystery Jets).

So, it is with an increased level of intrigue that the crowd eagerly await tonight's headliners. Bounding onto the stage in typical aloof fashion, the scene is set for a classic Cribs performance at the sold out Ritz. However, rather than the riotous rudimentary opener that is 'Our Bovine Public', it is a new song which unfortunately gets things off to a stuttering start. 'We Were Aborted', whilst following the Cribs' blueprint of being a 'jump along and go generally ballistic' kind of number, does prove to be somewhat of an anti-climax for the gathered throngs expecting to jump head first (literally in some cases) into one of the bands better known numbers.

Marr, coincidentally at the scene of the first live performance by the Smiths some 26 years previous, looked calm and collected throughout - his demure demeanour obviously rubbing off on the Jarmans, who appear much more subdued and generally well behaved than usual - that is until a projection screen unexpectedly lowers mid-set and is subsequently torn down by Ryan.

The 'classic' songs in the set are as well received as always, the likes of 'Another Number' and 'Mirror Kissers' whipping the crowd into a frenzy. Marr's presence does not appear to have added anything particularly dramatic to the overall sound produced by the band, merely increasing the volume by a few decibels - however his influence will almost certainly come through on record in due course. Speaking of which, a good handful of new tracks are given an airing tonight, with 'We Share the Same Skies' and 'Hari Kari' among the more pleasing to the ear on first listen.

However, it is a less recent track that produces the biggest impact of the evening; 'Be Safe' is performed with a projection of Sonic Youth's Lee Ranaldo singing along and generally mucking around with numerous inanimate objects to boot. It is an arresting sight; arguably one of the best British bands in recent times, flanked by Johnny Marr, with the enlarged face of Lee Ranaldo peering over their heads from behind.

By no means a blistering performance, the presence of Johnny Marr does feel like a token addition rather than a musical one at this stage, but things are looking promising for the new record. Best reserve judgement until then.

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