January 22, 2010
Better than: Missing the show entirely. I clearly need to pay more attention to the Granada's useful day-of-show set-time tweets.
Friday night at the Granada, there was a lineup of three great bands. Adam Green (formerly of the Moldy Peaches) and The Dead Trees opened for the recently beefed-up lineup of The Cribs, who hit the stage at 10 p.m. sharp to tear through a 17-song set. But really, their singular show acted more as two separate displays.
Center stage were The Cribs, the three brothers Jarmna. Stage left was the other (reluctant) act: New Cribs guitarist Johnny Marr.
Things kicked off with a kinetic "We Were Aborted" from the band's recent
Ignore the Ignorant release and they barely slowed down for the remainder of the band's hour-long
set. It was clear from the get-go that The Cribs' game has been
seriously upped with the addition of Marr.
An absolute master at the tasteful fill, the songs were complete sonic landscapes. While tilted a bit towards Ignore, the set list did justice to the band's entire catalog. And though
the hit-and-miss sound of the Granada was not in peak form, when performed live, the band's songs deliver a punk/garage punch, with lyrics that deliver a wry social commentary.
The band played with only the occasional pause between songs for some genuine nice-guy comments primarily from brothers Ryan and Gary, including reflections on their last stop in Dallas at The Loft. The brothers' northern burr of an accent required close listening, but it's clear these boys appreciate the opportunity to play, and they give it their all.
And the audience gave back the appreciation in spades.
But back to the act on stage left: Johnny Marr is a guitarist's guitar player. And while the entire band demands and deserves attention as a fully integrated unit, for many in the audience, it was just impossible to take eyes off Marr. Playing with amazing speed and clarity, he almost never takes a true lead break of more than a few bars. In fact, the only real shredding of the night was provided by Ryan, demonstrating that he is more than a competent guitarist.
It is Marr, though, who is a unique virtuoso, tossing off astonishing harmonics during past hit "Men's Needs" while still appearing to just be playing jangly rhythm. But he gives the impression on-stage and off of being a reluctant, wary superstar. Often standing in near-dark and keeping flashy poses to a minimum, it's clear he just loves to play and enjoys being in a band.
As the set (which featured no encore) came to a close in a wall of feedback at the end of "City of Bugs," Marr slipped his jacket back on and left the stage ahead of the bothers, making a beeline for the door.
A small group of fans was already waiting a the back door, some wearing Smiths shirts and clutching Smiths vinyl, hoping for a signature, but too shy to approach. It was clear, though, that Marr wanted to get out of the spotlight and back to the shelter of his band's bus as quickly as possible.
By The Way: A video feed intended to run during "Be Safe" and featuring Sonic Youth's Lee Renaldo speaking the lyrics in a close head shot just couldn't find sync. The song sounded great, but the struggling video was a distraction.