Oh, The Libertines. One of my all time favourite bands for so many reasons. The name alone is enough to bring years of memories flooding back – the good, the bad, and the occasionally ugly.
For anyone who grew up loving rock and indie music in the 00s, the album covers to both Up the Bracket and The Libertines will be perpetually seared into our memories.
Instantly recognisable; the youthful, care free faces of Pete Doherty and Carl Barat defining an era of leather jacket clad recklessness.
I’ve been lucky enough to see The Libertines a few times over the years, in both large, as well as tiny, intimate settings. Living in Camden for 6 hazy years, meant it was almost impossible not to bump into them, either together or separately, at some point along the way. Being local also meant that finding out early about secret Libertines gigs in pubs such as The Dublin Castle and Blues Kitchen (luckily for us, opposite our flat) was a common occurrence. I have three words for you- so…much…sweat.
With all this having been said, the perfectly composed, suited and booted band that greeted us with effortless swagger at the Leeds O2 Academy gig came as a very welcome surprise; this was a far cry from my teenage / early twenties run ins with the Libertines. Now don’t get me wrong, the crowd was still a swirl of absolute chaos – I’ve been to the Leeds O2 many times, but I’ve never seen a band quite manage to turn the whole standing area into one, unruly mosh pit.
The boys burst straight into ‘The Delaney’, followed by ‘Heart of the Matter’, providing instant anarchy, but it wasn’t until ‘Horror Show’ followed, that the air was filled with cups, clothes and bodies being thrown in every direction– by the end of the song, which turned out to be three of twenty-three, there wasn’t one of us left uncovered by beer/sweat/other. Although the crowd seemed to be reliving their youth, it was clear The Libertines were well rehearsed, focused and tight – the earlier days of not quite knowing whether the boys would make it to the end of a set seem to have been left well and truly behind.
The classic moment in any gig with this band, is the sharing of the central microphone by Carl and Pete – it just wouldn’t be right if ‘What Became of the Likely Lads?’ didn’t involve them being face to face, with only an inch between the whites of their eyes, and this night was no different. A song about their own self destruction and the struggles of keeping the band together, yet it seemed they’ve come in a full circle – what became of the likely lads you ask? They seem to be nailing this whole grown up rock band thing, actually. Thanks for asking.
There were some beautiful moments where you could feel the love between the boys; one of their most delicate songs,‘You’re My Waterloo’, saw Carl take to the piano, surrounded by the other members singing while in an embrace – it’s always been a song that I’ve held close to my heart, but seeing this one performed in such a heart felt way brought the goose bumps thick and fast. A drum solo by the cult legend Gary Powell, naturally led the crowd into the usual chants of ‘GARY, GARY, GARY F***ING POWELL!’ – no Libertines gig would be complete without it, right?
After eighteen chaotic songs, the generous encore delivered another five crowd pleasers, including my favorite Libertines song of all time, ‘Music When the Lights Go Out’. By this point, the crowd was one, giant sweaty mess- the idea of personal space, a distant memory. Yet, the band remained composed, delivering every last note to perfection.
Pete, Carl, Gary and John – we salute you. Hands down, one of the tightest, well delivered gigs of 2019. I for one, can’t wait for my next meeting with the Likely Lads.
Review of Leeds O2 Academy gig, 04/12/19 by Halyna