Every now and again, you stumble across a band that redefines your expectations of what a live performance should be about, broadening your horizons and exposing you to previously unknown delights. You open your mind to new things, new styles and this new band makes you realize that everything you thought you knew about music isn’t necessarily right any more. The Libertines is not that band, sadly.
We were only there because someone we knew had won tickets on a radio phone in and not been able to use them. Lucky, lucky people, is all I can say. The crowd was the youngest, brashest, most painfully trendy bunch I had ever had the misfortune to be part of, and they looked every bit as bewildered as I did to see Chas And Dave on the stage as support act. I hadn’t known who was supposed to be supporting, and when I walked into the auditorium I did a double take. It really was them – they were even playing ‘Rabbit Rabbit’, but I don’t believe I recognised anything else. Now, there was clearly some heavy irony going down here, as very few of the crowd would even have been born the last time Chas And Dave were in the charts, and they were never the most hip outfit in the first place. Ironic or not, they were not very good.
Now for the headline act. I knew nothing of The Libertines’ music beforehand, just downloaded a couple of random tracks the day before, and wasn’t overly impressed, it has to be said. I was hoping that they might surprise me with their live performance, and in a way they did. This gig goes down as the worst I’ve ever witnessed (and this includes dozens if not hundreds of pub gigs), and I will find it very difficult to erase it from my memory, although keeping it there serves as useful yardstick by which to judge others. To refer to them as ‘unpolished’ falls a long way short of describing how loose they were. ‘Amateurish’ and ‘sloppy’ don’t really do the job either – ‘shambolic’ is more the sort of word you’re looking for, but without resorting to expletives, it’s not possible to convey exactly how bad The Libertines were.
The bassist was totally unable to look up from his instrument, save for the odd panicked look in the direction of the drummer, who kept throwing in extra beats to keep the others on their toes. Pete Doherty and Carl Barat just made a racket over the top basically, neither being particularly good guitarists or remotely adequate singers. After what seemed like over an hour (but was actually less than 30 mins, how time doesn’t fly when you’re at a Libertines gig) Doherty threw a tantrum, smashed his guitar on the floor, and flounced off the stage, pausing only to kick over the backline on the way off. Fucking twat. Five minutes later, with the amps hastily reassembled, Carl picked up the pieces and finished the gig. What a pro. All rather contrived, I’m sure. The music press (and the few fans that are old enough to have a music collection that pre-dates Now… 46) compare this nonsense with the punk ethic of thirty years before, what with the have-a-go musicianship, the smashed instruments and the ‘grrr’ attitude, but I don’t know, it just doesn’t ring true. They’re just too soft and pretty looking.
I’d pay good money to see John Lydon or Captain Sensible take Pete Doherty’s stupid pork pie hat and shove it up his stupid arse. In front of Kate Moss.