LIVE REVIEW: The Libertines at Kentish Town Forum

The Libertines
Photo credit Roger Sargent

The last three London shows of The Libertines' latest tour in December 2021 were unfortunately cancelled owing to Carl Barât testing positive for COVID 19. This was upsetting for both the band and fans, as live gigs have always been at the forefront of everything the band does. Barât himself recalls the most defining The Libertines gigs took place at the flat he shared with Doherty. Whether it was the excitement of youth, the police busting these gigs or Barât now being older with fatherhood responsibilities, the band and fans will always look back with halcyon elation.

After impressive support sets from Hak Baker and Vona Vella, Kool & The Gang's "Jungle Boogie" filled the void with the stage going pitch black. The lights then came on to reveal Barât looking cool in a classic style leather jacket, Pete with a smart grey blazer and almost matching Peaky Blinders cap, bassist John Hassell was dressed modestly in a plain shirt and blue jacket which was offset with drummer Gary Powell's matching Stabilo Boss Fluorescent highlighter green tracksuit.

This quartet's attire seemed to be overlooked by the packed Forum, who were pleased to finally be in an intimate venue for a band most had followed for at least 20 years. The Libertines channelled this excitement perfectly by opening a song with Paul Weller's favourite lyric: "The City's hard/ the city fair". The majority of the crowd (most aged 35-45) jumped, moshed and danced as if they still had the same energy levels when they first encountered The Libertines as the band played "What a Waster". Many beer pint glasses were catapulted back and forth whilst some revellers thought they had travelled back before the smoking ban in venues enjoyed rollups.

Whilst, not an LP anniversary gig, however with their debut Up the Bracket turning 20 in October, it made sense to play three-quarters of it. The first, sharing the same title as the first LP, was the set's third song. The riotous crowd would have to wait until song eight when the band played "Boys in the Band" for more debut LP tracks. The Libertines would play four more Up the Bracket tracks: "The Boy Looked at Johnny", "Begging", "Horrorshow", and "The Good Old Days" before the encore.

With an extended encore, many expected that there may have been a wardrobe change with Pete and Carl changing into Scots Guard Military Jackets. They hadn't. Nonetheless, Hassell had removed his jacket, Powell had removed his tracksuit top, and Doherty had removed his shirt to reveal his bare chest, which was written in black ink "Free Ukraine".

Whilst this brought home the reality that fans were no longer in a pre-1st July 2007 world, The Libertines standalone classic "The Delaney" offered the perfect novocaine to keep spirits alive amidst the modern geopolitical turmoil. Furthermore, with more Up The Bracket songs being played, including "Death on the Stairs" and "Time for Heroes" playing out the set, The Libertines were able to get a sold-out crowd to relate and enjoy their material the same way they did over two decades ago.

As long as The Libertines can continue to induce this elation live, there will seldom be pressure to follow up their third 2015 LP.

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