Prior to his band’s headline set at Reading and Leeds, Carl Barât told NME in an interview that people were expecting “straight-up, raucous Libertines”. Closing the first night of Leeds, he made good on that pledge with a set that erased memories of the tepid response to the last time the band graced the festival in 2010, as the Good Ship Albion capsized. With their set moved earlier by 25 minutes due to Tyler, The Creator being forced to pull out after being denied access to the UK, and armed with an arsenal of new material, the Libs gave the city a night to remember – and not just due to Doherty’s questionable attempt at the local accent.
The Libertines are staying in the same hotel as Queens Park Rangers
“It turns out we’re staying in the same hotel as the QPR squad,” says Pete Doherty, pleasing one audience member wielding a blue and white Queen’s Park Rangers scarf, before enquiring about a team closer to Leeds, who they’re due to play . “Any Huddersfield fans in?” Cue boos, before he doffs his trilby to striker Charlie Austin. Other moments of Doherty banter include him name-checking Prunella Scales, and ruffling feathercuts in the crowd: “It’s nice to see Liam Gallagher could make it tonight,” he quipped. “He’s down the front.”
Pete Doherty doesn’t have an ear for accents
Striding on to the opening music of Vera Lynn’s ‘We’ll Meet Again’, a well-meaning Doherty attempts to ingratiate himself with the Leeds audience by immediately launching into the most affected Yorkshire accent ever to… well, bafflement. Somewhere, Wakefield’s The Cribs are rolling their eyes.
Their chemistry has survived
From them both trading private in-jokes, to the way they still manage – in their late 30s – to elicit homoerotic frisson from sharing a microphone (and possibly saliva), they’re the picture of a band relishing their renewed brotherhood. During new number ‘You’re My Waterloo’, “Peter Rigsby Doherty” (as Carl refers to him) unexpectedly forces a fag in his partner in crime’s mouth. He takes a puff and creases up, momentarily ruffling the atmosphere created by neckerchief-sporting special guest Ed Harcourt’s plaintive piano.
There’s a healthy dose of nostalgia
Even though they play a handful of tracks from upcoming album ‘Anthem For Doomed Youth’ – ‘Gunga Dun’, ‘You’re My Waterloo’, ‘Barbarians’, and the LP’s title song – the group couldn’t evoke the early noughties more if Pete nipped off before the the encore to burgle Carl’s flat. Screens show footage of the young, fresh-faced band in their pomp, and ‘What A Waster’, ‘Time For Heroes’ and closer ‘Don’t Look Back Into The Sun’ are savoured by young fans who missed out the first time around. ‘The Good Old Days’ meanwhile is primed for a flare-swaying communal sing-a-long. There’s tremendous goodwill from the new generation towards The Libertines, even if Doherty chides the throng during a set lull: “What’s up with you lot, anyway? You’re making us feel really unloved.”
Gary Powell is a fan favourite tonight
In the audience, among the blow-up sex dolls and inflatable penises, a banner reads: “GARY POWELL IS MY DAD”, and the topless time-keeper is even granted an extensive drum solo showcase, amid plumbs of dry ice, and also acts as the hype man before the encore.