Review: Libertines Reunion Gig

An Ending Fitting For The Start

libertines1– (London, 08/25/10) John and Paul, Ray and Dave, Liam and Noel – history is littered with great bands that suffered from relationship strains, Pete and Carl being no exception. Six years ago when Pete was forced out of the Libertines, a full scale reunion looked about as likely as an Oasis reggae album. Pete’s well documented drug problem became more of a talking point than the music as the arcadian dream came to a messy end after just two albums. Whether or not Pete is completely clean now is anyone’s guess, but Carl agreeing to play these gigs alludes to the assumption that Pete is in at least a better place than he was back then, whatever ‘better’ is in his chaotic world. There has been much to enjoy of the band’s individual output since they went their separate ways. Babyshambles put out two solid efforts and Dirty Pretty Things had their moments, as did John’s Hassall’s band, Yeti, who were criminally ignored. Yet nothing could recreate that magic which we’ve missed so dearly this side of the 00’s, a void that absolutely nobody could fill, no, not even the Arctic Monkeys.

Their debut album, Up The Bracket, was the most exciting thing to happen to music since the release of Oasis’ Definitely Maybe, and they captured the public’s imagination in a way that bands rarely do these days. It was a welcome record in a musical climate that had been flooded with mediocrity. You can criticise them all you want for reforming. Yes, we know they’re going to earn a shitload of money, but if someone offered you the opportunity to spend an evening with several of your closest friends to play some tunes and get paid a ridiculous amount of money for it, I doubt you’d say no either.

Just like bumping into an old friend, this warm-up gig at the Kentish Town Forum for their Reading festival slot was a very familiar experience. It was as if the fights, breakups, drugs and tabloid headlines hadn’t happened. Tonight they reminded me of a time when the band were in the midst of their very own Beatle mania. The anticipation could be felt throughout the venue, and as the clock now veered well after 9, the cynic inside me wondered whether Pete had gone awol – again. The band arrived on stage to Vera Lynn’s We’ll Meet Again, accompanied by a montage of memorable images that included the iconic photo on their second album’s sleeve. They were greeted with an almighty roar from the audience and proceeded to tear the roof off with the beautifully shambolic Horrorshow. However, it was the next song, The Delaney, which provided the first eye watering moment of the evening, as Carl and Pete shared a microphone to belt out the song’s chorus, demonstrating that rare chemistry which made their live performances so captivating in the early days.

Storming through the set with textbook performances of album tracks Vertigo, Last Post On The Bugle, Tell The King and Boys In The Band, the pace was slowed down a notch with Music When The Light’s Go Out – a touching rendition with heartfelt lyrics that no doubt still cut down to the bone for Pete and Carl. What Katie Did provided their Hey Jude moment of the night, although lacking the obligatory lighters in the air due to smoking rules, which didn’t stop Carl from having a cheeky fag on stage. Don’t Look Back Into The Sun and Time For Heroes capped off the set, which might have had some worrying about what was left for the encore after they’d already rolled out all the hits, yet for the rest of us this meant only one thing – the best was yet to come.


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Returning on stage for the encore, they still hadn’t said a great deal to the crowd, and continued to crack on. They never were ones to waffle too much on stage, letting the music do the talking instead. The gig came to its climax with What A Waster and I Get Along as the crowd went ballistic, countless fans being pulled out from the front as many surged forward to milk the dying seconds of this glorious experience. Not a second after the last note was played, Pete embraced Carl with a hug, quickly joined by the rest of the band, prompting a colossal cheer from the audience and putting an end to years of uncertainty with a public display of affection and show of appreciation to their fans.

It was dramatic, loud, emotional and above all – a reunion that was not just about the money. Did I mention it was loud? They had unfinished business to attend to and friendships to rediscover, not to mention a genuine desire to play songs that are loved by both themselves and their legion of devoted fans. One or two more rarities in the set list would have been nice, yet with a catalogue as rich as theirs I imagine choosing which song’s to play must have been quite an odious task. It was a case of déjà vu at the Forum tonight as the band met my sky-high expectations previously set at other memorable gigs, namely Brixton in 2004. Gary, the sweating lunatic, was faultless as ever on the drums, John remained cool and calm on bass duties, whilst Pete and Carl chaotically shuffled about and bashed out the tunes with passion. It was, if you’ll excuse the pun, just like the good old days.

Matt Humphrey

Setlist

‘Horrorshow’
‘The Delaney’
‘Vertigo’
‘Last Post On The Bugle’
‘Tell The King’
‘Boys In The Band’
‘Music When The Lights Go Out’
‘What Katie Did’
‘Can’t Stand Me Now’
‘Death On The Stairs’
‘The Ha Ha Wall’
‘Don’t Look Back Into The Sun’
‘Time For Heroes’
‘Campaign Of Hate’
‘Begging’
‘Lust Of The Libertines’
‘What Became Of The Likely Lads’
‘The Good Old Days’
‘Radio America’/’Up The bracket’
‘What A Waster’
‘I Get Along’

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