The Libertines – Dublin Castle, London, Friday September 4
Another week, another raucous and sweaty Camden secret show as 'Anthems For Doomed Youth' nears...
Stepping into the Dublin Castle tonight is like entering a timewarp. It’s packed to the rafters with fans dressed exactly as they would have been in The Libertines’ heyday – green army surplus jackets, Fred Perry polo shirts and skinny jeans – and the support bands (noise-punks The Deadcuts and acoustic singer Barns Courtney) sound like the kind of ramshackle choices that would have been selected to support the band back then, too.
Like the good old days, The Libertines’ stage time isn’t one for those hoping for an early night. The foursome finally make a heroes’ entrance at just after midnight (Pete Doherty’s only just hopped off the Eurostar from Paris), and continue to play for the next two hours. “We haven’t been on this stage in about two weeks,” quips Carl Barât before things get underway, referring to the July night when the band last sent ripples of excitement around Camden, first doing a short turn at this very same venue, before moving onwards for a knees-up at The Blues Kitchen.
Over the course of the next two hours, half-remembered versions of classic songs ring out through the tiny room and chaos reigns on and offstage. Old songs like opening one-two ‘The Boy Looked At Johnny’ and ‘Skag & Bone Man’ get the excited crowd going in an instant, but comeback song ‘Gunga Din’ fares even better – the proof, if it were needed, that The Libertines are still very relevant.
At various points of the night, Carl, Pete and drummer Gary Powell take it in turns to be crowdsurfed towards the stairs that lead to the venue’s pungent toilets. Each is an opportunity for a laugh – Pete narrates Carl’s exit with “and that’s the last they saw of him, disappearing off into the night”, while Gary’s departure sees Carl pick up his sticks and hold together a brief jam session with accuracy, if not flair. Bassist John Hassall, meanwhile, looks as if he’s fallen asleep leaning on his amp, eyes slowly blinking minutes later as if he’s just woken up.
Things reach a surreal peak as Carl announces “we’ve spent all our resources” and tries to instigate “Libertines karaoke”. It takes a few goes for him to succeed in making this happen – the first announcement is followed by the band playing ‘General Smuts’, while two blonde girls cause a small stage invasion as they fail to really sing along to ‘Up The Bracket’.
Eventually, Carl gets his wish. One fan, Paris, does her best attempt at ‘Music When The Lights Go Out’ – battling through another fan who’s taken it open himself to join her, much to Carl’s disapproval – before ‘Mockingbird’ and ‘The Delaney’ are also covered.
In typical Libertines fashion, there’s plenty of barbed quips slung back and forth between Pete and Carl. “Can you do this?” asks Carl at one point, showing off an intricate guitar lick. “But can you do this?” responds Pete, looking Carl square in the eyes and asking “Will you let me back in The Libertines?”
“Everyone grab someone and give them a cuddle,” Carl instructs as the venue lights glare on as time pushes past 2am. “I want to see some love, bring it together.” He and Pete fall to the floor of the stage in a pile, very slowly teasing out the opening notes of ‘Don’t Look Back Into The Sun’. Eventually, they get to their feet, and the crowd surges forward one final time. Carl and Pete launch themselves into the mass beneath them, swallowed up by flailing limbs desperate to get just a touch of their heroes.
Days after headlining Reading and Leeds, it’s heartwarming proof that, this time round, The Libertines are giving us the best of both worlds – enormous, triumphant milestones and scrappy, unpredictable parties. What could be better than that?