No other rock and roll band depict English romanticism quite like The Libertines.
In their blood and veins, it seems to run deep, it’s almost as though the intention is to keep on doing so forever. In rough political times such as these, it is invigorating, if not downright healthy, to seek escapism in the song repertoire of the likely lads.
English, energetic and fully charged, tonight’s homecoming show in what genuinely feels like their venue – it ought to belong to them – The Libertines sing and play their hearts out. Their fans are with them all the way during what is a superior and heart-warming performance.
More than two decades have passed, but this isn’t noticeable. Peter Doherty, Carl Barât, Gary Powell and John Hassall are on fantastic form, and the only thing that has been transformed is how together everything is. As tight as the Berlin wall once was, the delivery is spot on, oozing with precision and a deep awareness of knowing when something is just right.
The Clash influence has always been their trademark, and this evening in South London there’s an added sense that it’s more prevalent and authentic than ever. The boys are letting their music do the talking, and rightly so. With next to no chit-chat, one explosive anthem follows the next. It is a real time saver too, it means that there’s space for more tracks and a generous, sizable encore.
Beginning the set with ‘The Delaney’, ‘Heart of the Matter’ and ‘Horrorshow’ gets the party going – not that this was ever in question. The lighting design creates a sharp, consistent change in colour schemes, supporting the mercurial vibe of the show.
To say that there is a mosh pit would be an inaccurate description as the entire ground floor bears the resemblance of a tall, ultra-thick moving carpet, everybody is celebrating the return of their much-loved, favourite band.
Midway during the running order things are brought down for a short while with the intimate ‘You’re My Waterloo’. Keen not to leave out a single full stop or comma, every member of the crowd is in full voice. While ‘The Saga’ and ‘The Last Post on the Bugle’ bring things back up in speed with Gary Powell’s familiar beats hitting softly, but hard at the same time.
It’s time for ‘Can’t Stand Me Now’, a track receiving a reaction similar to that of a premier league football team playing a home game, only this time it’s without an opponent. The rendition of ‘Dead For Love’ is a moment where Doherty sings acapella, Barât plays piano, and all is accompanied by some tender drumming.
With everything set and ready for reggae contender ‘Gunga Din’, ‘Up the Bracket’, ‘What Became Of The Likely Lads’, ‘Time For Heroes’ and ‘Death On The Stairs’, the latter representing one moment of several where the crowd chants every note of the guitar solo with pure confidence.
Doherty shows us his sublime and hugely popular blend of busker-turned-cool-musician mode, and his charming guitar solo on ‘What Katie Did’ really brings that idea home for good.
Distinctive and beyond unforgettable, tonight’s Libertines show represents an iconic moment in the band’s career, a career which hopefully will go on for a long time. For as long as their romantic blood continues to flow freely. It is the true nature of a libertine after all…
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Words: Susan Hansen
Photo Credit: Cristina Massei
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