Review: The Libertines in Birmingham

Pete Doherty and Carl Barat. Picture: David Jackson

Pete Doherty and Carl Barat. Picture: David Jackson

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Ian Gallagher reviews The Libertines at Birmingham Barclaycard Arena

For a band which will forever be associated with famous gigs in bedrooms and sweaty small venues, a Libertines arena show is something of a curiosity. And while what was witnessed at Birmingham’s rebranded Barclaycard Arena was more polished and less dependent on chaos than in the band’s heyday, it certainly wasn’t lacking in anything.

A partisan crowd lapped up every offering from the quartet, fronted by the livewire Carl Barat and his healthier-than-normal looking sidekick/partner-in-crime Pete Doherty, over a 22-song trawl through a near-legendary back catalogue.

And while reunion tours may be all the rage at present, this was no mere nostalgia trip – highlighted by the clutch of songs from the band’s newest long player, Anthems for Doomed Youth, which made up around a third of the set and were played at the trademark breakneck pace.

Unsurprisingly it was the old classics which got the biggest reaction from a packed arena; the likes of What Katie Did, the never-quite-in-time Time for Heroes; Up The Bracket and seminal singles Can’t Stand Me Now and Don’t Look Back Into The Sun – the latter providing a particularly raucous set-closer.

There’s a brief hitch when Doherty’s amp packs up mid-set, and between-song chat was regularly replaced by the howl of the band tuning up, but that was about as ragged as it got. And with the flawless rhythm section of John Hassall and Gary Powell holding the show together, Doherty and Barat have the license to be as unpolished as they desire.

Love them or hate them, The Libertines remain one of the most significant bands seen on these shores for many a year, and an arena tour was probably long overdue. And while seeing their music played an inch from your face will always be preferable, you can’t begrudge them a stage as big as this – even if it took near-implosion and a decade to get to it.

The Libertines played:

Barbarians

The Delaney

Heart of the Matter

Horrorshow

Fame and Fortune

Boys in the Band

The Milkman’s Horse

What Katie Did

Anthem for Doomed Youth

You’re My Waterloo

The Man Who Would Be King

Gunga Din

Can’t Stand Me Now

Vertigo

Belly of the Beast

Death on the Stairs

Time for Heroes

The Good Old Days

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Albion

Music When the Lights Go Out

Up the Bracket

Don’t Look Back Into the Sun