Libertines / Wolfman & The Side-Effects / The Beatings
Kentish Town Forum
For many it's a sight they'd never thought they'd see again: Carl Barât and Pete Doherty singing side by side into the same microphone, gazing into one another's eyes, united in fellowship and both well on their way to realising the Arcadian dream. It's been a turbulent year for the Libs. First of all there was the small matter of co-frontman Doherty's debilitating smack and crack addiction, then the bust-up between him and Barât after Pete failed to turn up for the band's European tour, and to cap things off, events culminated in Doherty being sent to prison for burgling Carl's Harley Street flat. However, the pair reconciled their differences after Pete's two-month stint in chokey, and the good ship Albion seems to be sailing very much on course.
The support bands tried in vain to steal the show, but in reality, no one really paid them much attention. Garage rockers The Beatings were first up, and although they never really matched the raucous quality of opener What You Say, they were easily the better of the two bands. Wolfman & the Side-Effects struggled really to find any momentum, their set only spicing up after the introduction of a black soul singer to give some variety to Wolfman's monotonic, Mark E. Smith-alike warblings.
As the initial chords of Horror Show ring out we know we're in for a Libertines show to remember. Dressed in their usual uniform of leather jacket and obligatory tie/scarf, the band hurtle through their set at breakneck speed, Pete and Carl pirouetting and slamming themselves around the Forum's stage throughout. As well as the more obvious classics such as Vertigo and Boys In The Band, we're treated to lesser known 'b' sides such as the beautiful first encore track Seven Deadly Sins, Plan A and the wonderfully strident Skag & Bone Man. Pete is still very much the erratic, unpredictable showman who appears to crave attention and adoration, whilst Barât seems to be the more levelheaded of the two, and is prepared to take a back seat, and provide the solid musical backbone to the group.
The Good Old Days is certainly the most poignant track of the night, and the lyric "If you've lost your love and faith in music / the end won't be long" seems all the more appropriate given the context. The band's pal Rabbi joins them for a run-through traditional folkie Sally Brown and new song Last Post On The Bugle follows the blueprint set by Don't Look Back Into The Sun. The gig ends in a typically chaotic way, Pete announcing after What A Waster that the band won't play the next song without "at least another 65 people". Hysteria ensues as vast numbers of fans crowd-surf to the front in an attempt to join around one hundred lucky punters (including the writer) who join the band onstage in the proceeding stage invasion.
Along with the Beatles, the Stones and Kinks before them, the Libertines have that crucial British quintessence that sets them apart from their peers. The charismatic pairing of Pete and Carl, Gary Powell's incredibly frenetic and dexterous drumming, along with the intriguing lyrics and urgency of their songs such as Time For Heroes means that the 'Tines have the potential to go down in musical history as a truly great UK band. This time next year, if they can keep it together that long, they'll be selling out arenas. Whether this is a good or bad thing remains to be seen.