Last Wednesday evening, Carl Barat and Pete Doherty led a bolshy but perfected riot at Birmingham’s Barclaycard arena. Sat high and close in the stands, we watched as the band of four swaggered onto the stage to roars from the crowd. After being together for almost twenty years, they must be used to this by now – seemingly so by the confident start with ‘Barbarians’.
The instrumental sections were authentic and passionate – small lapse’s in timing and imperfections made the whole performance more musically impactful – showing the excitability of the musicians to get to the next infamous guitar riff. Looking onto the standing area of the arena, you could see the crowd erupt in instant recognition after approximately a second of each song. For instance, as soon as the unique guitar began for ‘What Katie Did’, the crowd were itching to sing along with the band – queue the ‘shoop, shoop, shoop, de-lang, de-lang’ (if you know then you know.) The guitar solo in this was insane, so good I wrote ‘GGUITAR RIFGFFF’ next to it’s title in the notes section of my phone.
About halfway through their set, they played a personal favourite; ‘The Milkman’s Horse’. The stripped back, atmospheric nature of the track isolated Barat and Doherty’s hectic harmonies. On first listen, lyrics might be hard to work out from the trademark and perfected slur of the vocals. However, the lyrics ‘get out of my dreams you scum’ carry such a punch it’s hard not to take them in. Although the Libertines are known and loved for their bolshy and accelerated songs, it’s the slower tracks such as this one, ‘Music When The Lights Go Out’ and ‘Fame and Fortune’ that highlight their comfort in performing with each other, evident in the way they compose themselves so intimately in such a large arena.
Barat sat at a red piano centre stage to sing ‘You’re My Waterloo’, greeted by a swaying and slurring crowd singing every single lyric. Barat’s vocal was effortless and modest, and paired with Doherty’s created a fluid and boy-sy harmony. Considering the Libertines frontmen are now 36 (Doherty) and 37 (Barat), they still have such a unique quality of capturing the wickedness and erraticism of youth in their music. This is so easily seen in tracks like ‘Barbarians’ and ‘Gunga Din’ where rhythms are constantly varied and played around with. In fact, a highlight was their performance of ‘Gunga Din’ – maybe selfishly because this track is up there with my favourites, and the melting guitar lick that opens the song and falls back to after an energised chorus is even more satisfying live. Riding on the high energy of their most recent release, the London-based band went straight into ‘Can’t Stand Me Now’. The delicious build of the chorus was met by an arena of ‘CAN”T STAND ME NOW’s’ and beers in the air, and it was brilliant.They left the Birmingham crowd with arguably their most mainstream track, ‘Don’t Look Back Into The Sun’.
The Libertines are without a doubt, one of the few remaining rock’n’roll bands, who manage to combine youthful sounds and life experience all in one. If you haven’t seen them live already, you should.