Live Review: The Crookes at the Rhythm Room, Phoenix, AZ – 26th September 2016

By on Tuesday, 11th October 2016 at 2:00 pm
 

Monday night, the 26th of September, was a busy one on American shores. The first debate between presidential candidates Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton was televised that evening, as was an early season Monday Night Football game (that’s football of the American variety). Even just in Phoenix, that Monday night was unusually active for music gigs, with shows on at several local venues, including the Marquee Theater in Tempe, the Crescent Ballroom, Valley Bar, and the Rebel Lounge.

Whichever of those events people in Phoenix were busy with that night, the entire city missed out on the best show in town, bar none, at a well-known and long-standing music venue, the Rhythm Room. Usually a blues bar, the Rhythm Room has lately expanded into other genres of music, and this night they took a chance on a band not as well-known in this part of America, Sheffield alt-pop quartet The Crookes. Their gamble might not have paid off in terms of ticket sales, but as the tiny crowd in the club that night can attest, the quality of the performance was no less than top-notch.

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I arrived around 7:30 for a show that was advertised to begin at 8:00, but as there was no support act on the docket (earlier shows on the tour had included The Young Wild and Zipper Club), The Crookes apparently were in no great hurry to start their show. But the patrons in the bar, who numbered exactly 9 at my count, including myself, were antsy with anticipation and nonetheless enthusiastic when the band did eventually take the stage.

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First and foremost, I have to commend The Crookes for the energy and heart in their performance, despite the infinitesimal crowd. I’ve seen them play several times in the course of my tenure at TGTF (going way back to their American live debut in 2013!), and I must say that they gave this show their full and undivided effort, where many bands might have been tempted to get lazy or write it off as not worth their time. Frontman George Waite was smooth and ever professional, despite a bit of heckling from the peanut gallery, and his voice was sounded as good as I’ve ever heard it. Drummer Adam Crofts, who might still be considered new to the band, having joined only last year, played through the show with an engaging smile on his face. The acoustics in the venue were bright and clear, and the guitars in particular, played by Tom Dakin and Daniel Hopewell, sounded amazingly crisp from start to finish. Much moreso, in fact, than when Mary and I last saw The Crookes earlier this year at SXSW 2016.

Daniel internal

The Crookes’ set list at the Rhythm Room was tight and exquisitely composed, starting with a few popular favourite tunes from breakthrough album ‘Hold Fast’ before touching on new tracks from their excellent current album ‘Lucky Ones’ and diving momentarily into their growing back catalogue. Though I did miss hearing live favourite ‘The Cooler King’, I was delighted that they chose to include ‘A Collier’s Wife’ from ‘Dreams of Another Day’, which I must admit had an air of novelty about it for me, as I hadn’t listened to it in quite some time.

[youtube]https://youtu.be/kORZ3unOfo0[/youtube]

A small audience allows for a bit more flexibility in a band’s set list sometimes, and The Crookes did take the opportunity to deviate a bit from their plan for the evening. Judging from the set list photo below, they hadn’t intended to include new album track ‘No One Like You’, but in the end, they did play an intense version of it that created a nice dramatic peak in the set. Then, in a truly brilliant manoeuvre, they took advantage of that intensity and the rapt attention of their audience with a refreshingly cool and polished cover of Bruce Springsteen’s steamy ‘I’m On Fire’. This, for my money, was a fantastic addition to the Crookes’ set, even if it does steal precious time away from their own four full albums’ worth of music.

Crookes set list

Waite didn’t spend a lot of time on banter between songs on this rather subdued Monday night, but of course, he couldn’t let the evening pass without a comment on the heat in the Arizona desert. He and his bandmates have travelled through the American southwest a few times now, and I suspect that they’re becoming a bit more accustomed to the climate. Still, l do hope The Crookes receive a much warmer welcome the next time they pass through the Valley of the Sun. I’ll most certainly be looking forward to seeing what they do next.

By the time this review goes to press, The Crookes will have wrapped up their Autumn 2016 American tour, which saw them following their wanderlust to a few new and unusual places, including Eugene, Oregon; Visalia, California and Birmingham, Alabama. But if you’re on the UK side of the pond, you’ll have the opportunity to see the Sheffield lads later this year. The Crookes will close out 2016 with a special Christmas tour of England this December; all the dates are listed here. TGTF’s extensive previous coverage of The Crookes is collected through here.

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There Goes The Fear is where we tell you about the latest music, gigs, and tours we love and think you should too.

We love music that has its heart on its sleeve, tells a story, swims around our head all day or makes us dance like no-one's watching.

TGTF is edited by Mary Chang, who is based in Washington, DC. She is joined by writers in England, America and Ireland. It began as a UK music blog by Phil Singer in 2005.

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