There’s a buzz of excitement around Sheffield’s finest music venue rarely witnessed. The Crookes are fast becoming one of Sheffield’s premiere sweethearts, forming at the University and named after a leafy suburb in the heart of the Steel City. ‘Hold Fast’, their second full-length LP released in June, hasn’t exactly lit up what’s been an uninspiring year for rock, but with high-flyers such as Noel Gallagher embedded in The Crookes fan base, it’s their live performances which have captivated audiences for quite a while now and can be attributed as the main rationale for the aforementioned buzz.
Both support acts are fellow Sheffielders. Algiers are a Black-Keysesque two-piece who succeed in making a decent amount of racket but aren’t the most captivating. My hopes for surfer-pop cavaliers Best Friends are far higher but are dashed as lead vocals fall horribly short of their quality on recent recording Throwing Up and each song blends into the next in a volley of abject noise and ‘woo-hoo-hoos’.
No such issue for our headliners however, whose main strengths lie firmly with the energetic, almost spine-tingling vocal quality of frontman George Waite. His effervescent energy drives the performance and ensures that the audience are left feeling almost sold short by a set which barely reaches an hour. After a quick intro from stage classic ‘Bugsy Malone’, the set list is right on the mark, mixing in early favourites, ‘Chorus of Fools’ and ‘Bloodshot Days’ (accompanied by a comic dedication to the bouncer who Waite quickly identifies as appearing ‘bored shitless’) alongside the obvious necessity to showcase the majority of ‘Hold Fast’.
In total fairness, the new tracks are far better live than the mediocre reception garnered by the album suggested, with the raw energy of title track and singles ‘Maybe In The Dark’ and ‘After Glow’ causing rapid singalongs and delivered with a vigour enforced by Waite’s unashamedly odd head-jerks. Set highlight ‘The I Love You Bridge’ is virtually delivered a-cappella, with Waite left alone on stage with just a guitar for company casting a spell over the enraptured Leadmill crowd broken only by closer and crowd-favourite ‘Backstreet Lovers’, re-created so perfectly for the live setting that it could have been ripped straight off the CD.
The foursome return for a quick encore and are treated with nothing but adoration as Waite puts forward the old ‘best night of my life’ adage, a claim which, clichéd as it may be, rings strangely true. The Crookes may be struggling to get by in a world where a camp Korean man in his mid 30’s can attract almost a billion views for a video of him dancing like a pony but at least here in the depths of South Yorkshire they still, and will for the foreseeable future, retain a loyal following from those who can really appreciate what good music is about.