Live Review: The Crookes at Sheffield Shakespeare – 19th May 2013

By on Friday, 31st May 2013 at 2:00 pm

It’s always strange, trying to make small talk with a taxi driver in an unfamiliar town, when you’ve got a million thoughts running around in your head. But this is the actual conversation I had with mine on the way to this show:

“Where do you come from? I can tell from your accent that you’re not from here.”
“I’m from Washington, DC.”
“That’s a long way to travel. What are you doing in Sheffield? Is it for work?”
“You know this pub you’re taking me to, the Shakespeare? My friends are playing a show there tonight.”

This was my first visit to Sheffield, ever, so I really didn’t have any idea what the Shakespeare was going to look or be like. The taxi pulled up to a regal-looking building on Gibraltar Street with a sandwich board on the sidewalk that proudly read it’d won a Best Pub award a couple years ago; obviously, it’s a place beloved by locals. It had been so warm there that earlier that day, I’d been to the Botanical Gardens (mostly to see the bear pit, naturally – Crookes fan alert) and had been walking around in a t-shirt and jeans, wearing sunglasses and a hat. That all directly contradicted how I’d always imagined Sheffield: neverending grey, rainy days with a dose of depression. (This was echoed by a restaurant manager I met while I was searching for a copy of Sheffield Exposed; he said I’d arrived in town during highly unusual weather.)

With the earlier heat, it was no surprise that all the windows of the top floor – where the show would be held – were open. But what took my breath away happened right after I’d paid the driver and opened the car door to step out. I could hear, clear as a bell, George Waite’s angelic voice floating through the air, “he walks in whispers, draws a stranger’s gaze / why you always sleeping? It’s the middle of the day / and they’re nothing, no, they’re nothing like us / why you always running from the people that you love?” They were soundchecking ‘Dance in Colour’, their next single, one that had completely melted my heart.

I could have died happy on that street then and there.

But no, then I wouldn’t be here writing this review. Once inside, I could see why the Shakespeare was so beloved. Unless they’ve actually been to Britain, it’s hard to explain to other Americans how different pubs in Britain are to what we call ‘bars’; try as they might, there’s a cosiness to the rooms in a pub, with their well-worn chairs, tables and carpet underfoot, and often the feeling that you’ve entered a friend’s home, an overall experience that can’t really be fittingly replicated in the States. For a band like the Crookes, whose humble beginnings began in Steel City a couple of years ago when they met as university students, it seemed entirely appropriate that they would choose to play such an intimate, 90-capacity show in the city they call home. It’s so rare for bands to put on shows like this when they could for certain fill up larger venues, so I feel so lucky to have been present to witness this gig.

The Crookes Sheffield Shakespeare 1

From the start, I could just tell it was going to be very different from any other gig I’d ever covered. For one, I got a black ‘C’ with a red heart drawn around it on the top of my right hand to indicate I’d been allowed entry, which I thought was adorable. Once upstairs, I fell in love with the space, which was as low-key and disarming as the multi-purpose room at DC’s St. Stephen’s Church. I soon learned this was the same infamous space where fans had crammed themselves in last summer at Tramlines 2012, turning the place into a fire hazard. No such scenes this night; to be honest, it was nice to go to a show where I had plenty of room to breathe and dance.

Yeah, let’s discuss that subject of dancing. I don’t know if it’s complacency with the relative ease of having seen the Crookes so many times, or knowing that they will play in town in the future, but the largely local Sheffield crowd wasn’t as energetic about the band as I expected. This could also be a result of all the girls around me were drinking and holding their glasses during the gig, which is pretty much foreign to me: in DC, my friends and I will drink before or after the show, but it’s a non-issue during the actual show, because we’re there to dance. Maybe it was Northern reserve? Not sure. I apologise though to anyone who was behind me who was bemused by my style of dancing. Sorry. It just happens… During the show, George actually singled out a girl out in front who was wearing a black dress, thanking her for dancing without pause through the entirety of the show. And that’s how it’s done, folks! While the audience might not have physically shown the signs of enjoying the gig, they expressed their gratitude instead with loud cheers between the songs.


The show began straight out of the gate with one of the new singles, ‘Bear’s Blood’, named after a libation concocted by a mysterious mountain man in Slovenia. If you thought it was completely mental in the Sharpie-happy promo video released in April, in which drummer Russell Bates gives you kissy lips, you just haven’t lived until you’ve seen it live. (I have helpfully recorded it for posterity for your viewing pleasure above.) I had to wonder if they’re putting it on right away first in their live set because it’s one of their most physically demanding songs to play live yet. If this and ‘Dance in Colour’ are good indications, the Crookes’ third album will be harder rock than their first two, with stellar guitar solos feeling right at home with their always infectious choruses.

The Crookes Sheffield Shakespeare 2

From ‘Bear’s Blood’ on, there was no time for rest, as then they went straight into ‘Hold Fast’ second single ‘Maybe in the Dark’. This one is always a crowd favourite, with this thumping bass, frenetic tempo and what I consider quite possibly the most amazing chord changes in a pop song’s chorus, ever. (If you could see me in my car listening to this, you would see I am known to do voice teacher-type hand gestures to mark these changes.) Having been able to finally get rid of my personal ‘ghost’ 2 weekends prior in Liverpool, the song took on a new meaning for me, making me feel ever so positive about the future. That’s what good songs do; after repeated listens, they will reveal more of themselves to you.

While the Crookes’ current live set mostly focuses on the faster tracks from 2012’s ‘Hold Fast’, appearances by ‘Chorus of Fools’ and ‘Just Like Dreamers’ from 2011’s ‘Chasing After Ghosts’ were more than welcomed by the crowd. A long-time fan chimed in, overeager to provide lyrics to closer ‘Yes, Yes, We’re Magicians’ (from the 2010 ‘Dreams of Another Day’ EP) when George was taking a moment for dramatic pause. Bless. (Or perhaps more accurately, he was pausing to take a breath, as the poor guy was gasping from the heat in the room and the overexertion from playing.) Needless to say, he laughed, and everyone else joined in. He recognised her as being one of the Crookes’ long-time supporters. “Just how many times have you seen us now?” I smiled from the inside out. It was one of those moments that only happens in a small show such as this, when you feel like you’re in the company of friends.

The Crookes Sheffield Shakespeare 3

After the show I learned some things about the next album that I don’t think I’m allowed to share – yet! – but let’s just say I’m very excited to hear what’s up next for the Crookes. I would love to get an album from them by Christmas but as they say, patience is a virtue, and good things come to those who wait.

After the cut: the set list.

The Crookes Set List:
Bear’s Blood
Maybe in the Dark
Chorus of Fools
Just Like Dreamers
American Girls
Sal Paradise
Bloodshot Days
Hold Fast
Dance in Colour
Where Did Our Love Go?
Backstreet Lovers
Yes, Yes, We’re Magicians

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6 Responses

2:04 pm
31st May 2013

RT @tgtf: New post: Live Review: The Crookes @TheCrookes at Sheffield Shakespeare @ShakespearesShf – 19th May 2013:

5:02 pm
31st May 2013

@tgtf @thecrookes @shakespearesshf Spot-on review Mary! 🙂

5:04 pm
31st May 2013

RT @tgtf: New post: Live Review: The Crookes @TheCrookes at Sheffield Shakespeare @ShakespearesShf – 19th May 2013:

[…] Saturday they play the Cathedral at 1 PM, Western Park Bandstand at 5 PM and the Shakespeare (yes, *that* Shakespeare) at 8 PM, followed by an appearance at the Bowery on Sunday at 3 […]

[…] The next morning, somehow John and I got out of our respective beds. I remember fighting my suitcase to get it shut so we could leave Brighton on time and make our connections in London. I nearly forgot my purse on the kitchen table. (Thank god we hadn’t dropped the keys through the letter slot yet.) But the Great Escape and our time in Brighton was over, and for me, it was time to switch gears…to be reunited with friends in Sheffield. […]

[…] May in Sheffield after the Crookes‘ 90 person-capacity show at the Shakespeare, I was trying to help a fellow fan who wasn’t sure if she should buy the band’s debut […]

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