26th February 2006 @ Carling Academy, Liverpool
One can easily imagine three bands getting pretty close over the course of a twelve-date tour, and consequently tonight’s final gig is a bit of a love-in. But in between giving gushing thanks to everyone from the tour bus driver to headliners The Cribs, Jeffrey Lewis finds time to showcase his acoustic-led beatnik rants. A product of the same New York anti-folk scene that spawned The Moldy Peaches, he introduces standout track ‘The Big Mystery of Communism’ as “a little documentary I’ve been working on for a while”. A spoken word diatribe, accompanied by violins and cartoon Soviet Block projections, it’s far more complex than anything tour mates Giant Drag dare attempt. But with lowbrow song titles like ‘My Dick Sux’, you’d be a fool to expect anything overly sophisticated from the duo anyway.
What the Californians lack in complexity though, they make up for in power. Infamous opener ‘You Fuck Like My Dad’ seems to defy the fact that there are only two of them onstage, with drummer Micah Calabrese hitting notes on a synth with his left hand in between snare hits. There’s off-kilter Soundgarden riffing in places, and floaty ethereal guitars in others, all held together by deceptively simple pop melodies. Despite such great tunes though, singer and guitarist Annie Hardy is the show’s real centrepiece. Her song titles are a window onto her twisted psyche, and talking in a babyish tone all evening while making statements like “I haven’t worn a bra all tour, just for you guys” only serves to increase your view of her as a bit of a nutjob. On the eve of her band’s UK album release, she’s a star in the making.
Already bona fide stars though are the Kaiser Chiefs’ Yorkshire mates The Cribs, as evidenced by the screaming girls and stadium-sized light show that greet their arrival onstage. Following in the grand tradition of pub-rock power trios, their shout along Jam facsimiles aren’t exactly ground breaking, but they get the front row putting their fists in the air nonetheless. While Giant Drag are justly proud of their minimalism, The Cribs cover it up by pulling cliché rock star poses: standing on the drumkit, ripping their shirts off and proudly proclaiming how rock and roll they are by “playing against doctor’s orders” after singer Ryan’s hospitalisation at the NME Awards.
They do have a couple of aces up their sleeves though. ‘Hey Scenesters’ is undeniably great, with added bombast from tonight’s extended drum intro. Last years single ‘Martell’, meanwhile, with its hooky refrain of “someone’s got their eye on you” is probably the most infectious thing the Academy has ever heard. The band crack open a bottle of champagne before the last song to celebrate a successful tour. But really they should be celebrating the fact that an otherwise average group has been saved by a couple of great singles and a lot of posturing.
There's another great live review of Giant Drag (from the Newcastle date of this tour last week) by fellow music blogger Greg Smyth over at Swing Batter Batter.