The Libertines

Venue: Bristol O2 Academy
Date: 8th September 2015

The Libertines were the last band that truly meant something, that is a bold statement and I am sure many will disagree, yet for a generation of people The Libertines were their band. The post-Oasis generation were crying out for a band and The Libertines came along and gave them everything they were looking for and changed their lives. I feel incredibly lucky to have experienced both Oasis and The Libertines first hand, both bands came into my life at exactly the right time and gave me times that I will never forget.

Everyone knows how The Libertines came crashing down, it was a roller coaster ride that crashed and burnt. Even your mum, dad and grandparents who had not heard a single song of the band, who did not take the time to listen to the poetry and romance within the lyrics or the band’s story had a view about Pete Doherty as he was splashed across the tabloids for what seemed like an eternity. It became a sad fact that the stories in the tabloids overshadowed the music this great band wrote and what they meant to people, as the band were relegated to tabloid fodder to increase sales of the red tops.

Now a decade on the band are back together and have a new album out ‘Anthems for Doomed Youth’ which so many thought would never happen and back on the road doing what they do best, giving people a good time and inspiring us. I was one of the lucky ones who managed to get tickets for this club tour in the run-up to the new album being released, the tickets literally sold out within minutes - how can anyone argue that The Libertines do not matter?

From the moment I walked into the Academy you could feel the anticipation. At 19.30 the venue was full, people claiming their spot, reluctant to move, waiting to see their heroes. That moment arrived at around 21.30 when Vera Lynn’s ‘We’ll Meet Again’ was played through the PA system. The crowd instantly started signing, waving their hands in the air, clapping, jumping around and wiping a tear from their eyes as Pete, Carl, Gary and John emerged on the stage together again.

What followed was an hour and a half that I will never forget. The opening four tracks were ‘Horror Show’, ‘Vertigo’, ‘The Delaney’ and ‘Can’t Stand Me Now’; it was as though the band had asked the fans beforehand, ‘what do you want?’. Of course they didn’t do that, but what it shows is that The Libertines are a band that know their fans, and that was one of the many things that made the band so special to us in the first place, there was no us and them. The Libertines had a connection with their fans which, until they arrived at the turn of the century, had not happened since Oasis, and has probably not really happened since.

Watching the band on that stage you just realise how much chemistry there is between them and, if anything, that chemistry seems to have increased over the years. What The Libertines have just can’t be faked and is something that can’t be taught, you either have it or you don’t, and The Libertines certainly have it. Seeing Pete and Carl share the mic on ‘Music When The Lights Go Out’ was a beautiful moment, no one since Lennon and McCartney have shared the mic with so much meaning.

Not forgetting the reason for this small tour was to remind us that The Libertines have a new album out, unlike many bands who would have used it as an opportunity to ram the new album down our throats, The Libertines had the perfect balance. Together with ‘What Katie Did’, ‘Boys In The Band’, ‘Tell The King’ and ‘The Ha Ha Wall’ there were new songs including ‘Fame and Fortune’, ‘Heart Of The Matter’, ‘Anthem For Doomed Youth’ and the first live performance of ‘Iceman’ which included a debate on stage about whether they should play it or not. They also treated us to ‘Gunga Din’ which I have to be honest when I first heard I was slightly disappointed by but after seeing it live I completely get it, the crowd sung back every word and it sits comfortably next to many favourites including ‘Time For Heroes’ and ‘The Good Old Days’. Listening to ‘Gunga Din’ live it has already become a classic.

Throughout the whole set the old songs and the new blended together with perfection. During the old songs the crowd sung back every word, and I do mean every word, this wasn’t a gig where it’s only the chorus that the crowd sings, every one was there to have a great time and remind the band just how much they mean to us. I personally have not jumped around so much at a gig for a long time, hugged so many strangers, been lifted up in the air by strangers and felt completely safe and happy. Once again that is one of those special things that make us love The Libertines; we are all in it together, we are all Libertines looking out for each other and just there to have a great time.

The gig came to an end with ‘What A Waster’, ‘Up The Bracket’ and ‘Don’t Look Back Into The Sun’ - I really could not have asked for a better ending - with the band coming to the front of the stage to hug each other and thank the crowd. Leaving the venue covered in sweat (I’m sure you needed to know that), one of the things that really struck me about this gig was where so many bands become quite soulless and a victim of their own success, that certainly has not happened to The Libertines. Yes, you could argue they never got a chance for that to happen because of the way they crashed, but watching them tonight I firmly believe that would not have happened. They played this gig as I am sure they have every other night on this tour, as though it was their last night on earth and the last gig they would ever play. The Libertines are a band who care as much about us as we care about them.

Steve Tay

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