The Libertines at Wembley Arena
It’s an energetic start to the show, as fire dancers swirl in a burning yin-yang symbol while white lights slowly spin like shiny comets around the stage, and The Libertines open with Vertigo, the first song from their 2002 album Up the Bracket.
The Libertines, the English garage rock band famous for singer and guitarist Pete Doherty’s drug use and the ongoing homoerotic feud between the two frontmen, released their debut record 20 years ago. To celebrate, they are going on a European tour to memorialise their early work alongside crowd favourites.
Flashing green and red headlights add a dizzying start to Time for Heroes, ending in a spinning montage of the band’s faces as an emotionally charged series of “ahhha-ahhha”s encourages a communal cry; it feels uplifting and melancholy at the same time. Radio America is accompanied by a shimmering, starlike light display on the ceiling and gentle twinkling red, white and blue lights on the stage that create a dreamy vibe and work enchantingly with this softer, tender song.
The ever-relevant and changing lighting design and background video montages (at one time a Barbie is on fire, in another, the video for You’re My Waterloo is played in its monochromic glory) feature enjoyably throughout the show and emphasise the emotion that a particular song is meant to evoke in the audience.
The band also bring an air of performance to the show, including an amusingly self-aware skit where Doherty is beaten up by a policeman wielding a truncheon. He and Carl Barât have a turbulent history, but their chemistry and affection for one another is brought home when they sing from the same microphone, almost looking like they’re kissing in these intimate moments. After so many ons and offs, there is a feeling of cohesion between the band members in tonight’s performance, which is heartwarming.
Nostalgia is a major theme: the Libertines play the entirety of Up the Bracket, before going into the songs the audience is waiting to hear. Many of them feel similar in tone, and some can be confused with the others, but they really come into their power with the verbally clearer numbers like You’re My Waterloo, What Katie Did and Music When the Lights Go Out – the latter has a beautiful guitar solo that sounds just as a good in person as it does on the recording.
The Libertines brought a mix of reminiscence for the early 00s, celebration and a new incarnation as older, more settled and perhaps in better places. Some of the numbers merged, but not to the point of losing anyone, and there was enough happening visually to keep the audience’s attention throughout. This was a fun, heart-activating night that delighted diehard fans, whilst also offering enough well-known numbers to give everyone the chance to shout along.
Photos: Mike Garnell
For further information and future events visit The Libertines’s website here.
Watch the video for the single You’re My Waterloo here: