The Libertines / Buff Medways / The Stands
London Kentish Town Forum
Just days before the Libertines embarked on their mini tour of the UK, joint frontman and guitarist Pete Doherty was told by his colleagues that his services would no longer be required on the tour. Doherty's increasingly erratic behaviour, perhaps fuelled by his well-documented use of narcotics is said to have angered certain members of the band who felt that it was time their bandmate sought professional help. A series of disjointed messages posted by Doherty on the band's libertines.org fansite increased fears that the band would split, especially after the singer claimed that he was looking to form another band. However, an official statement from the band's management claims that they will not be splitting and that Pete is still very much part of the Libertines. Elsewhere, many fans are worried that Doherty will become another famous rock casualty, conjuring up alarming images of Richey Edwards and Syd Barrett as well as countless others. With a high profile slot at Glastonbury looming at the time of writing, it remains unclear whether or not Pete Doherty will be performing with the band.
Current Noel Gallagher faves The Stands were the opening act. The Scouse quartet entertained the Forum crowd with their amiable, harmonica-drenched guitar pop jangle. The band revolved around the musical nucleus of singer/guitarist Howie Payne, who as well as providing some Cast-esque vocals was also more than capable on lead guitar, as demonstrated on the ten minute long improvised jam that proved to be the centre piece of their set. With the current Liverpudlian indie scene going from strength spearheaded by The Coral, The Bandits and The Zutons amongst others, a bright future may lie ahead for The Stands and their contemporaries.
Since he quit working as a stonemason on Chatham Dockyard in 1977, Billy Childish has written almost 30 collections of poetry, two novels and painted innumerable paintings (the most expensive of which he sold for £2000). On top of this, he has recorded over 70 albums with The Milkshakes, Pop Rivets, Thee Headcoats, Thee Mighty Caesars and his current band the Buff Medways. Emerging onstage at around 9pm surrounded by their vintage equipment, the Medways burst into Childish's trademark abrasive garage rock. At times, the caustic fuzz could become slightly tiresome, and the structure of the songs rarely varied, but overall the trio's set went down well. As well as being one of the White Stripes' idols, Noel Gallagher, Gem Archer, Kelly Jones and Radio 1's Zane Lowe all appeared at the edge of the stage to watch Childish's performance, causing some excitement in the crowd.
When the Libertines finally took to the stage, Nick a guitar tech once again stood in as Pete's replacement, leaving his fellow frontman Carl Bârat to tackle all vocal duties. Admittedly, there was an air of uncertainty and tension in the crowd before the band came on, the fans perhaps unsure to how the band would function without one of its principal songwriters. However once the band opened their set with a palpitating version of Horror Show, these concerns were quickly forgotten. Nick adapted well to the live situation, prancing around the stage and mouthing the words to all the songs, lit cigarette permanently drooping from his pouting lips. Bassist John Hassall even added his vocals to The Good Old Days, prompting a great reaction from the ever-enthusiastic crowd. Supposed new single Don't Look Back Into The Sun is undoubtedly the best thing the Libertines have ever done, a great guitar riff from Bârat combining with a catchy chorus. Other highlights included the incendiary Up The Bracket, the sing-along b-side The Delaney, the whimsical Tell The King and the scuzz-rock of Mayday. The band rounded off their set with a two-song encore of the obscene What A Waster and I Get Along.
Pete or no Pete, it was clear that the Libertines' cockney charm could still win over the majority of the crowd on their biggest headline tour to date. Carl Bârat was definitely the star of the show, performing all of Pete's vocals as well as his own, and keeping the band as tight as possible under the circumstances. An uncertain future lies ahead for the Libertines, and despite official statements from the band, it remains unclear if Doherty will ever play with the band again. Whatever happens, the Libertines are a rare band who can combine their enchanting, capricious lyrics with razor-sharp, captivating music, and if they can hold it together for long enough, then mainstream success beckons for them.