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(Credit: Roger Sargent)


The Libertines - Alexandra Palace, London


At one of the highest points in North London atop a glittering view of pestilence and rudderless perseverance, The Libertines made their stunning return to their adopted hometown. Amid beer, sweat, blood and piss they continued their dominance over live shows and ended the critical argument of “Have they still got it?” with an unequivocal “Fuck ’em”.

Much has been said about The Libertines in recent months from the tempestuous live return in Hyde Park which could have turned so easily into a Rolling Stones disaster to the tiresome critique of their want to make a decent wage from it. But little has been said about the performance.

As The Libertines entered in to a game of ‘What you could have won’ with a strong and rambunctious crowd baying for the furious and fast living which changed their hair, their clothes and attitude in the early Noughties, they answered critics with one simple, slightly misplaced, strum of a guitar – the crowd were theirs.

Helpless and hapless without a care for the world except “Was that piss or beer?” the crowd danced, jumped and in general lost their shit to classics like ‘Horrorshow’, ‘Up The Bracket’ and ‘Time For Heroes’ while second album favourites ‘Campaign of Hate’ and ‘What Became of The Likely Lads’ got a naturally large response of throwing beer (or piss) across an already sweat-drenched crowd.

The reckless approach that labels this band as true troubadours reared its head on several occasions with misplaced chords, false-starts and other technical hiccups, but this for me, like most other fans, only went to further endear the band to our hearts.

With only two albums under their belt and such a long time away it was hard for a die-hard crowd not to enjoy every song but clear favourites emerged as ‘What A Waster’ and ‘Music When The Lights Go Out’ encouraged mutual singing into your loved ones face with dear affection, and by loved one I mean anyone within a two-foot radius. While ‘Can’t Stand Me Now’ invented best-friend-fall-outs and ‘Don’t Look Back Into The Sun’ reconciled them.

While Pete and Carl completed their set of obligations including the classic Red Coat, Trilby and singing to each other eyes, breeding was a sense of complete oneness within the crowd, a devotion to a band compounded by a great performance and accelerated by the ferocity with which they rattled through riffs and prattled with the crowd. This was The Libertines gift to the nation, they were no unattainable band, there was no division between artist and audience, guerrilla gigs and impromptu poetry had already broken that barrier, this was about pure and unbridled love of yesteryear, of The Good Ship Albion.

They ended the night with two songs that will always set them apart from other bands. Firstly the incredible and unbelievable performance of ‘You’re My Waterloo’ a track which ingrained itself in so many fans lives for the simple fact it was not available anywhere, excluding a few mixtapes, on The Libertines collection. This performance treated the fans who had been there from the beginning or had such devotion they had devoured every morsel of the band they could find, to the kudos every aficionado wants to have at a gig, singing your heart out when nobody else knows the words.

Then came the emphatic finale ‘I Get Along’ with a chorus of undoubted importance to everybody in the crowd all desperate and waiting for their opportunity to tell the world to go fuck itself. When the moment came there was something oddly special about thousands of people screaming “Fuck ’em!” to the point of vocal damage, it was a collective condemnation of anybody and anything you wanted, it was beautiful. With that brief moment, it was over, just as quickly as it had begun. As they took their bow with gleeful, tearful eyes there was a sense of regret at having ever split in the first place.

Ramshackle and always bubbling with turbulence and chaos Pete and Carl continued their reunion with the same discourse as two old flames in a dingy bar. There was a feeling this will definitely not last forever, the old problems will soon arise but for this solitary moment, everything was as passionate as it was perfect. That’s always been what The Libertines represented though, a flash of poetic and poorly constructed brilliance, a spontaneous community brought together by dissonance and destruction. There was a lot of talk before the show but it was just that: talk. The Libertines showed that now they just did the walking.