HydePark is hardly the arcadian dream, it’s simply a field brimming with sponsorship deals and tasty food. But alas, this is the setting for Pete Doherty, Carl Barat and the likely lads to stage their bombast return.
Some are here out of curiosity, others nostalgia, and the majority for their sheer love of The Libertines. Arriving in the day it’s evident that the masses have pre-drunk themselves into a swirling level of joy. After-all, there’s little chance of getting drunk on the inside with waits for the bar clocking in around half an hour. The few support acts we did wish to see were unreachable with the Theatre Stage being closed due to technical difficulties. So savouring our drinks and feeling rather glum we’re left with little choice but to head over to the mainstage just in time to catch The Pogues rattle off a few numbers.
Shane McGowan looks as though he’s about to drop dead, but the anthems the band have onboard go down remarkably well. The upbeat Irish tunes don’t fail to slap a smile on the face. ‘Dirty Old Town’ enchants with it’s legendary status and of course ‘Irish Rover’ incites the action parallel to a football win. The set however does introduce the first of the evenings many problems, someone in the crowd requires urgent medical attention. There’s an rife animosity as the band do their best to halt any excitement so the paramedics can reach the incident. Things are dragged back into a bounce with the carnival spirited ‘Fiesta’.
Well, cue a brief video montage of their messy and love-strewn career, the nostalgia barometer reaches it’s high. The Libertines take to the stage and it’s an effort to keep both feet on the ground. We’re about halfway back but the scrappy guitars of ‘Vertigo’ easily muster a huge surge forward and it’s impossible to get out. This is dead exciting and it’s hard not to cast a thought to those down in the front few rows. As Pete and Carl eyeball each other with that daring romanticism we’d all hoped to see already people around us are struggling for air…
Although it’s far from their biggest tune ‘Boys In The Band’ is stopped halfway through with the band beckoning the crowd to step back. This in itself is an engaging event, matching the spontaneity and urgency of the band, who fill the silence with improvised singalongs such as ‘Build Me Up Buttercup’ and ‘Seven Nation Army’. It works, it cools the tense air and gives security a chance to hoist those needing help over the barrier. With the problems temporarily nipped in the bud, we’re met with an onslaught of anthems. ‘The Delaney’, ‘Campaign Of Hate’ and ‘Time For Heroes’ follow, coaxing every bit of emotion out of the now more tame crowd.
This is a band who love every minute they get on stage, and it’s clear they haven’t reached legendary status for no reason – they’re comfortable as they rumble through the two iconic albums that defined a generation. Every song is as good as the next, ‘Can’t Stand Me Now’ sees flares illuminate the skyline adding to the sheer romanticism. Tomorrow will undoubtedly bring many aching bodies and heads, but for the moment in this field everyone is living firmly in the present.
Where do we go from here? Well there’s ‘Don’t Look Back Into The Sun’, ‘Up The Bracket’, ‘What A Waster’, each enthralling. These are songs that have hummed from stereos and ipod’s for years but rarely get that live airing. Tonight everyone is soaking up that rare chance; but surely it’s time for another problem? Yep, people are clambering up the delay tower and the show can’t continue. While we wait Pete goes it alone with a stunning rendition of ‘Albion’. There’s a few awkward moments as the rest of the band wait stage-side and we realise that Pete’s playing one of his own songs. Carl returns though and helps finish the ballad.
After ‘I Get Along’ rumbles as the final song of the set, Pete and Carl then return to recite Siegfried Sassoon’s wartime poem ‘Suicide In The Trenches’, it’s a moving experience, we look forward to more over at Benicassim later this month.