On an election night of tense polling, Britain’s old guard returned to reclaim their status as indie heroes.
The tumultuous tales of The Libertines are some of the most iconic in modern British rock history, spiraling since their formation in 1997 and still fizzing effervescently in the background of the present day. Pete Doherty, not-too-recently arrested in Paris for a drunken brawl and attempting to purchase drugs, caused fans around the world and in Britain especially to catch their breath as the band geared up for a sold-out run of UK dates to conclude 2019.
The announcement of a winter tour was met with surprise and glee from fans anticipating new music – it had been four years since the release of the quartet’s third record Anthem for Doomed Youth – yet given the timing of the general election, fans couldn’t help but grin at the band’s endearing love for embracing the hostility within the nation. After all, the more likely that a situation reaches feverish boiling point, the more at home the band, which is centred around the songwriting partnership of Carl Barat (vocals, guitar) and Pete Doherty (vocals, guitar) with the accompaniment of John Hassall (bass) and Gary Powell (drums).
Despite The Libertines’ musical prowess in the early 2000s, internal conflicts eclipsed the band’s blossoming status as Britain’s answer to The Strokes and one of the new millennium’s integral indie-rock stalwarts; Doherty’s addictions to cocaine and heroin alongside the straining of relationships within the quartet led to the band disbanding in 2004. Returning for a European tour and ending on a nine-date Christmas jaunt across the UK, the band highlighted their destructive prowess as a live tour de force and rose to match expectations of still being one of the country’s most virtuosic and passionately supported indie bands.
'After all, the more likely that a situation reaches feverish boiling point, the more at home the band'.
As the four-piece strode onstage to the quintessential sounds of Vera Lynn, the atmosphere in Rock City’s cavernous venue was teetering on the edge of mass hysteria. The Delaney rocketed the band and crowd into action, whilst newer favourite Heart of the Matter demonstrated the off-beat rattle that was tried and tested on the band’s third record. As Horrorshow slipped into Barbarians, the raucous world of The Libertines slowly morphed into life onstage, the iconic Barat-Doherty partnership jaggedly breaking down the audience-band barrier with ease. As Can’t Stand Me Now created the first moment of true crowd pandemonium, fans were transported back to the time when the single, which reached #2 in the charts in 2004, narrated the breakdown and depth of the love-hate partnership between the band’s co-writers.
Last Post on the Bugle, originally recorded as part of the 2003 Babyshambles Sessions in New York, allowed another moment of reflection on the band’s tangled journey, and as The Ha Ha Wall and Dead for Love came and went, the political leanings of the band finally came to prominence. Jeremy Corbyn chants wailed around the venue as Doherty reminded fans to look after one another in a testing social climate, before Gunga Din’s charmingly smooth swagger came to the forefront.
'As Can’t Stand Me Now created the first moment of true crowd pandemonium, fans were transported back to the time when the single [...] narrated the breakdown and depth of the love-hate partnership between the band’s co-writers'.
Whilst a short reunion in 2010 gave fans some hope that The Libertines would return to the spotlight, it took a full ten years before the official reformation and release of third record Anthem for Doomed Youth in 2015, led by the release of Gunga Din. In 2014, the band’s return to the live setup – playing Hyde Park’s British Summer Time – led to three consecutive dates at Alexandra Palace in September. As the quartet moved into 2015, Doherty’s completion of rehab in Thailand led to the frontman joining his bandmates to record their third studio record, eventually released in September 2015 following raucous Reading and Leeds headline slots, a surprise Glastonbury Pyramid stage set and leading to a 2016 UK arena tour.
It had been over seventeen years since the band’s debut record Up The Bracket came to fruition, but the impact of its title track still sends shivers down the most passive of crowd members – it’s a rollicking descent into anarchy showcasing the four-piece’s epitomous lo-fi squawl at its best. What Became of the Likely Lads, the band’s final single before their original disbandment in 2004, allowed each-and-every attendant to bellow the words at the top of their lungs, and as Death on the Stairs and Time for Heroes brought the main set to a conclusion, fans were left in awe of the tightness that remains in the midst of the iconic Libertines jangle.
'It had been over seventeen years since the band’s debut record Up The Bracket came to fruition, but the impact of its title track still sends shivers down the most passive of crowd members.'
Returning for an encore of wall-to-wall classics, it is no wonder how The Libertines’ status as one of Britain’s most important bands of the twenty-first century has remained intact, despite the cacophony of high-profile personal scandals taking place. What Katie Did caused the biggest crowd singalong of the night, whilst as Don’t Look Back Into the Sun and What a Waster (the band’s first single, released in 2002 and the subject of their first ever NME cover) closed proceedings, an air of jubilation ignited the faces of band and audience members alike. On a night of tense polling, the result was clear amongst the Rock City gathering. The Libertines were back and with a clear majority.