Libertines review – aging street misery and sports arenas shouldn’t mix | The Libertines
Ja few years ago, when the Libertines released their debut album Up the Bracket, the prospect of Carl Barât and Pete Doherty one day shouting “Hello Wembley!” would have seemed absurd. They looked more like a subculture than budding rock stars. Embodying Oscar Wilde’s famous line about being in the gutter but gazing at the stars, they mixed the squalor of the streets with whimsical humor and a poetic longing for a different, more magical England. They disintegrated two years later, their idealism crushed by drugs and betrayal, before they could get a chance on the big stages.
Tonight, unfortunately, the idea of playing all of Up the Bracket in an arena still doesn’t hold up. In 2014, the Libertines played a giant reunion show in Hyde Park, but half of Wembley is closed to hide empty seats. The album just isn’t upgradable. Absent the band’s youthful mythology and excitement, it’s a rickety, rowdy affair that wasn’t designed for a venue big enough to host a sporting event. It’s always nice to see Barât (slender in white) and Doherty (sturdy in black) leaning into the same mic, like a kiss, but songs like Boys in the Band sound really awful and the whole thing threatens to fall apart. halfway side two. Attempts to lift the material – fire dancers, a drum solo, a series of Que Sera, Sera (the football version, not Doris Day’s) – are just bizarre, before Doherty’s performance of the fragile side B Mayday does not provide an unnecessarily bathing coda. All the while, the beautiful laughing young girls of Les Libertines frolic on the video screen behind them: a spectacle of nostalgia that diminishes the present.
They turn the show upside down in the second half, however, with louder songs later. Music When the Lights Go Out and You’re My Waterloo (with Barât on piano) confirm Doherty’s formidable talent for wounded melancholy. Can’t Stand Me Now and Don’t Look Back Into the Sun, with surprise guest Jamie T on third guitar, are so anthemic that even the fire dancers ultimately seem appropriate. Don’t look back indeed – or at least not at Wembley.