This Libertines article was written by Oliver Hope, a GIGsoup contributor
January 23rd sees a very cold and rainy Manchester being descended upon by an army of avid supporters of the Libertines. They certainly are a unique bunch. The band’s widespread diversity has attracted people from many walks of life and just from observing the people walking into the venue it’s easy to spot the stereotypical “Lads” with their upturned polo shirts and the more uniquely dressed indie-rock fans, they certainly are polar opposites. But, this shows the effect that The Libertines have had on the musical world. They have yet to reach that level of worldwide phenomenon that they may envisage themselves as having but nevertheless they have a core of loyal fans that are only too happy to brave torrid weather conditions for a chance of seeing their musical heroes.
Reverend & The Makers were the first to take the stage. They’ve been a very well established group for over ten years now and are still going strong – their latest album ‘Mirrors’ is proof of that fact (critically acclaimed by the musical press and their strongest material since 2007s ‘The State of Things’). In terms of a great warmup act then you need look no further than ‘Jon McClure’ and his band. They started by taking a selfie of the audience, which is, considering they are a support band, a very large gesture. The band were only limited to a 30 minute set list so had to fire through their back catalogue – having only half an hour to play five albums worth of music is not exactly ideal for any band, but they managed to put together a set which one could consider to be their “greatest hits.” This really got the crowd buzzing for the evening and is one of the only incidences of a support band finishing, leaving and the crowd still singing along to their songs, clambering for more. The classics ‘Shine The Light‘ and ‘Heavyweight Champion of the World’, were obvious highlights and a reminder of just how good this band are.
Next up were local band Blossoms. Now when I say local, I mean local, this band are only a fifteen minute drive from the arena. Blossoms have been very highly tipped to be the breakthrough band of 2016 and radio stations such as Radio1 and RadioX have been highly profiling the young band, tipping them for big things this year. Like Reverend & The Makers, Blossoms only had a 30 minute period to show their wares. Their impressive set and equally impressive stage presence was similar to that of a band 4-5 albums into their musical journey and not that of 5-piece who formed less than 3 years ago. ‘At Most a Kiss’ and ‘Charlemagne’ are already become established crowd favourites and tonight both were added to a tight 7 track set which oozed confidence from beginning to end.
Finally the Libertines took the stage. It’s been sixteen years since they first appeared on the UK music scene. Over that turbulent period there have been breakups, fallouts, reunions, spin off bands and much notoriety around the media, centred almost entirely around Pete Doherty. The tour here symbolises a reunion, the launch of a new album and a realisation that together this band tend to knock the ball way out of the park – if the conditions are favourable. There were certainly glimpses of the ‘old’ Libertines at Reading & Leeds in 2015 and these current dates are the continuation of that – it now appears to be just about the music which is, at the end of the day, what the real fans want to see.
The band had a healthy mix of old and new songs, which was great for any die hard Libertines fan. The new songs do not stray too far from the original format that worked so well for them, however they unfortunately don’t have the mythical aspect of anything from ‘Up The Bracket’ and ‘The Libertines’ and that’s not something you can ever intentionally re-introduce. You can see this from the audiences reaction, the new music is absorbing and well delivered but the crowd are still and quiet. The reactions to songs seem mixed, to say the least – there is such a major contrast between the new and old. When the old classics kick in the crowd are feverish, chorusing all the lyrics and going wild. With the music from ‘Anthems of Doomed Youth’ it is almost as if they are sitting on their hands – which is surprising considering that both ‘Gunga Din‘ and ‘Fame and Fortune‘ contain the same no nonsense formula as their forbearers.
Sensibly, they save their stone cold classics for the encore, an easy way to send the audience home happy. ‘What a Waster’ and ‘Don’t Look Back Into the Sun’ rekindle memories of yester-year and are worth the entry fee alone. ‘Can’t Stand Me Now’ and ‘What Kate Did’ have the same affect and you appreciate that it’s a miracle we’re even watching them being played out again.