31 Aug 2015

The Libertines @ Reading festival (live review)

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The Libertines returned to play Reading Festival for only the 2nd time in the last 10 years, but unlike their reunion in 2010, this felt sincere and genuine. Their first stint as a band saw them amassing a cult following and despite all of the tabloid exposure, they broke up before they could truly hit the heights that they deserved. Exactly 11 years on from the release of their 2nd album they took to the main stage of Reading to close the whole festival. Quite how they rose in popularity so sharply in the last decade is almost a mystery, but based on tonight’s performance they are absolutely worthy of their re-found fame.

To tell the truth, it was an electric night before the band had even come on stage. The Cribs, The Maccabees, Jamie T and Kendrick Lamar (especially Kendrick) got the crowd into a frenzy and by the time The Libs’ now-traditional entrance music was played there were already arms, lighters and flares aloft. To the sound of Vera Lynn and the applause of thousands The Libertines stumbled onto the stage and burst into long-time set opener Horrorshow. Straight away it was clear that the band were going to be on good form. The whole set was a much tighter performance than 2014’s Hyde Park and Ally Pally shows, their experiences at Glastonbury and headlining around Europe had clearly taken the band onto the next level. Whilst they had always been on the same wavelength, this time around they were completely in tune with each other. As charming as their shambolic sound was, by the time Can’t Stand Me Now rolled around I couldn’t help but think how great it was to hear them playing as an actual, functioning, in-tune band.

Embedded image permalinkThe ever-building Campaign Of Hate was excellent and truly highlighted how far the band have progressed musically. Keeping in time perfectly as the song rose in tempo again and again, it was a genuine musical spectacle and led into Time For Heroes perfectly. Naturally, Time For Heroes was an absolute treat. So much so that before the beautiful Music When The Lights Go Out, Carl lead the boys into the bridge of Time For Heroes for a 2nd time. Following Music When The Lights Go Out Gary Powell produced an absolutely killer drum solo, he really has aged like a fine wine and carried the band impeccably; both his charisma and musical ability have become vital to The Libertines’ live show.

The audience were treated to 3 new songs from Anthems for Doomed Youth and one new-old one, in You’re My Waterloo. An absolute set highlight at Ally Pally last year, You’re My Waterloo has been given a makeover that Gok Wan would be proud of, now featuring a cello and a piano it was a set highlight and gave Peter a chance to show off his ever-underrated vocal talents. Whilst both Fame and Fortune and Anthems For Doomed Youth were enjoyable live, they were completely outshone by Gunga Din. It’s entirely possible that for the newest generation of Libs fans, this is the first song they fell in love with by them and it showed. The chorus was belted out by band and audience alike, a lovely contrast on the rather tame album cut of the song.

In truth the crowd fell relatively flat towards the end of the set, 4 days of dancing had probably taking it out of the festivalgoers and the combo of Tell The King and Anthems For Doomed Youth did little to ignite the crowd back into life. Ending the main set with The Good Old Days was more than enough to really kick things back into gear, the emotionally charged mic-sharing in the choruses and frenzied outro ensured that the audience demanded an encore. And what an encore they got. Any band who can end a 90 minute set with such energy as displayed in the fantastic finale of Up The Bracket, What A Waster, Don’t Look Back Into The Sun and I Get Along are surely worthy headliners of any festival in the world. Whilst the whole set was thoroughly enjoyable, the encore was truly in another league. The high-tempo vocals of Up The Bracket and What A Waster were delivered perfectly by Pete, Carl and the audience alike before that familiar drum intro to DLBITS launched what was probably the singalong of the weekend. All topped off with that magnificent “fuck ‘em” before Gary perched on Pete’s shoulders and the band took their lengthy applause.

The Delaney 
Can't Stand Me Now 
Campaign of Hate 
Time for Heroes 
Music When the Lights Go Out 
What Katie Did 
Gunga Din 
Boys in the Band 
The Ha Ha Wall 
You're My Waterloo 
Last Post on the Bugle 
Death on the Stairs 
Tell the King 
Anthem For Doomed Youth 
The Good Old Days 
Fame and Fortune 
Up the Bracket 
What a Waster 
Don't Look Back Into the Sun 
I Get Along 

(written by ruben clark)