With music experiencing an ever more crowded calendar of reunion gigs across the board, there’s every chance the Libertines coming together once more might have staggered under the radar.
After all, the on/off musical courtship of Pete Doherty and Carl Barat has already brought one comeback proper – for the Reading and Leeds festivals in 2010 – amongst numerous flirtations and near misses in the decade since they split amidst opiates and acrimony.
Yet to deny them a sense of intrigue and urgency now is to deny the peculiar chemistry which plays upon the best songwriting partnerships and which undoubtedly has an effect here.
To watch Doherty and Barat in action at the second of these two Glasgow-based warm-up shows for their large-scale appearance at Hyde Park this weekend is to be instructed on precisely how this relationship plays out in practice, and it’s a powerful spectacle.
If there’s one thing the time apart helped to do, it was magnify their differences: Barat as the clear-eyed and professional indie tunesmith with Dirty Pretty Things, and Doherty as the loose cannon whose time with his own project Babyshambles has seen him appear on this very stage late and in a state of bare coherence.
The centrifugal force which brings both of these muses together is strong, although at first it wasn’t all too evident. They arrived (reasonably on time), they played and the capacity crowd went predictably wild for a set which appeared almost too eager to please, packing in material which hadn’t been heard live in some time.
Amidst it all the most familiar entries in their canon rang out, like the jaunty "Time For Heroes", Barat’s sweaty-vested crooner "What Katie Did" or "Can’t Stand Me Now", it’s “I can’t take you anywhere / you can’t take me anywhere” refrain a bromantic call and response between our two reunited protagonists.
At one point they sound like a super-charged Status Quo, at another lock-in balladeers at that heavy ale and pipe smoke scented British pub of days gone by. They batter through Up the Bracket" and "Love on the Dole", the latter reminding us how refreshingly and anachronistic it is to have a popular band which sings of real, visceral experience once more, and turn "The Good Old Days" into a happy Mondays funk before "Don’t Look Back Into the Sun" instigates a ferocious response.
All the while, the quartet sip at a procession of what look like alcoholic cocktails served on a tray by a hostess wearing their signature Rorke’s Drift-era cavalry coat, and they seem to go to Doherty’s head first.
Between songs he riffs excitedly on his guitar, not allowing natural breaks, and it’s Barat who holds things together – whispering in his ear, accepting a woozy salute of acknowledgment, receiving a succession of bear hugs which the audience loves to see.
The encore careers through "What Became of the Likely Lads?" and "I Get Along", closing with Barat snatching Doherty’s guitar, flinging it to a guitar tech and holding his friend’s fist aloft in a closing statement of triumph before he can go on any longer.Reuse content