The Libertines at Brixton Academy
Despite being on the On the Road to the Waste Land tour, The Libertines are far more solid and slick than the name might imply. Their last journey around the UK was the Tiddley Om Pom Pom tour of seaside towns, which slightly imploded due to lead singer Pete Doherty’s infamous insobriety; it was impossible not to note Carl Barât’s pained winces of irritation as he tried to cover Doherty’s impromptu forays into songs not on the setlist.
Tonight, though, Doherty is on his best behavior; indeed, he has been along the whole tour. As a result, that slick, tight quality they have had since their first December gig in Bournemouth maintains itself from start to finish. The main set crams 17 songs into an hour, even though two ballads are inserted into it. The first, You’re My Waterloo, has the crowd roaring every lyric back at Doherty as Barât takes to the electronic keyboard (which is flagrantly shoved into the hollowed-out keyboard frame of an actual piano). Equally raucous reactions greet the singles Can’t Stand Me Now and What Became of the Likely Lads, from second album The Libertines, complete with topless males on shoulders and beer being thrown into the air.
In fact, the second-album tracks in the encore (Music When the Lights Go Out and What Katie Did) are bellowed with such passionate ferocity by the crowd that one would think the lyrics of both are astute social observations that chime with the disenfranchised who are finally elated: two people finally expressing what nobody has ever mentioned before.
It is not that The Libertines ignore classic debut Up the Bracket (they play seven tracks from that glorious period), but it is obvious their fanbase has blatantly shifted and it does not sit at ease with the band. Early-noughties fans would not have heckled, jeered or thrown items at their tour poets (the fabulous Luke Wright and The Freewheelin’ Troubadour) and one wonders if this behaviour is why their onstage interaction with the audience is non-existent. This is a band who, after all, adored their early fans and treated them to many treasured impromptu gigs.
Now they seem content with playing their commercial hits, feigning bromance and camaraderie by singing in the microphone together, forcefully singing a capella around “the old Joanna” on Dead for Love, and then leaving. While the Libertines make a solid showing, it is notably unspectacular and suggests that the dreams these likely lads might have of future glory (like the dreams they had as children) are fading away.
Photos: Mike Garnell
For further information and future events visit The Libertines’s website here.
Watch the video for You’re My Waterloo here: