The Cobalt was dark and smelled strongly of beer. The graffiti on the walls and on the tables sat proudly, unharmed, like a badge of honor. But something was off — craft beers replaced dirt-cheap pilsners, posters were forgone by electronic signs proudly displaying upcoming shows and tobacco advertisements, and the vending machines were stocked with vape supplies and venue-branded t-shirts. It all seemed very inauthentic.
Nevertheless, the atmosphere was alive even for the opening act, a bold three-piece indie outfit from Glasgow, Scotland. PAWS opened the show with “Catherine 1956,” their tribute to frontman Philip Taylor’s late mother. It wasn’t the best performance of the song I’ve seen — it was a bit sterile and lacked emotion — but it was a solid introduction to the lo-fi indie-garage-rock sound of PAWS for the mostly unfamiliar crowd. It was followed by an explosive and passionate performance of “Tongues” that immediately won the affection of those here for the headline act, and brought an energy to both the crowd and the band that carried throughout the set.
PAWS tend to play almost all of their songs differently live than in the studio. While it usually works to their advantage and creates a highly energetic atmosphere, the accelerated tempo at which they played their biggest hit, “Sore Tummy” ruined the integrity of the song. However, the ending crescendo with Taylor standing on top of Josh Swinney’s bass drum was as electric as ever, a highlight of any PAWS show. “Bloodline,” on the other hand, an angry, loud punk-influenced tune became much more powerful when sped up. By the end of their 45-minute set, most The Cribs fans in the crowd had become PAWS fans as well.
Before leaving the stage, Taylor announced that The Cribs were “one of the best live bands on earth,” so I was expecting a lot from the three brothers from Yorkshire. Promoting their new album, the sarcastically titled 24-7 Rock Star S**t, The Cribs did something I’ve never seen before — they played songs exactly as they sound on the records while still keeping the energy at a fervorous high. Some bands play studio perfect live but aren’t exciting, while others, like PAWS, bring excitement and emotion to their shows but no two performances are alike.
The punk edge that The Cribs brought to the UK indie scene in the early ‘00s was as present as ever, both in their older hits and their newer material. The majority of the crowd seemed to be in their mid-to-late thirties, and, as a result, the most popular songs were those off of 2007 album Men’s Needs, Women’s Needs. Songs like “Our Bovine Public,” “Men’s Needs,” and “I’m a Realist” were met with raucous cheers and applause, jumping and dancing, and singing along, while the cuts from their 2017 album caused much less excitement.
As the evening went on, I began to feel as though every song was the same brand of punk-tinged indie-rock, but “Pink Snow” was a much-needed sharp turn towards some sort of Soundgarden or Bush sound. From 2015’s For All My Sisters, the seven-minute journey through tempo changes, haunting guitar chimes and a slow climb to insanity at the coda (with a generic indie song plunked directly in the middle), was a perfect way to end the evening on a high note. For very different reasons to their opener, The Cribs were a rock-solid and very impressive live act.