Pete Doherty and Carl Barat's band roll back the years with a raw and explosive set at the Usher Hall (1/12/21).
If memory serves me right I’d only seen The Libertines once before. It was at T In The Park on a Saturday afternoon. Pete Doherty wasn’t in the band at the time due to "personal issues". People were handing out flyers to attendees pleading to them that if they saw Pete Doherty to keep him away from Carl Barat and the rest of the band (the troubles of the band are well documented).
It was all a bit too overdramatic for my liking. Which summed up The Libertines. There seemed to be a lot of baggage and not all of it was filled with musical instruments.
Yet, when you strip away the sordid tabloid headlines, the coming off the wagon, breakneck speed, the relationships, and the hangers-on, you realise that they’re a really good band. They've also been everywhere. They’ve soundtracked our lives from Gavin and Stacey to Scottish Cup Final banners.
They sauntered onto the stage of Edinburgh's Usher Hall. There’s been a lot of fuss from newspapers about Doherty’s appearance now he’s settled in France, ironically from the same people who mocked him when he was fighting his demons. For me, he could turn up in a ballerina tutu and it wouldn’t matter as long as Barat was by his side.
Drummer Gary Powell wore a green and white Adidas trackside looking about thirty years younger than he is. At the other side of the stage stood John Hassell, recently back in the band, typically stared into space as if he’d rather be anywhere else.
For a band with a reputation of being one of the best of their generation, they don’t have a lot of material. But what they do have is lapped up as soon as ‘What A Waster’ kicks in.
It’s a buzz watching the four of them go for it. The punk ethos running through their veins, sounding as raw as they did all those years ago. Four boys who got into music not for a career or for glory but because they enjoyed it. And they’re good at it.
‘Up The Bracket’ sent an already manic crowd into raptures. Barat stripped down to his vest for ‘Barbarians’. ‘You’re My Waterloo’ sounds like the greatest anti-love song you’ve ever heard.
‘Boys In The Band’ set up ‘Can’t Stand Me Now’ perfectly and their version of ‘Go Your Own Way’ from Fleetwood Mac sounded as lethal as you’d expect.
The encore took things to another level. ‘The Delaney’ and ‘Death On The Stairs’ sparked a mass bounce along in the crowd. They finished with the mighty one-two of ‘Don’t Look Back Into The Sun’ and ‘Time For Heroes’ that sent the crowd reeling.
At the end the four of them stood on the edge of the stage, victorious. A massive two-fingered salute to those foolish enough to write them off.
Going to a Libertines gig used to be a bit like watching the Grand Prix. There was the possibility of a car crash, of an implosion, of being able to say you were there to see the whole mess.
But much like cars racing, there’s also the very real chance of experiencing a thrilling spectacle, one that leaves you breathless and wanting more.
Thankfully nowadays there are no fliers being thrust into your hand warning you to keep Pete away from the rest of the band.