Tuesday, 17 December 2013

"What do you expect for £25?" The Libertines Reunion - Hackney Empire, April 12th 2007

Did you know that One Direction have their third autobiography out in time for Christmas? I watched a brief news clip of semi-pubescent girls screaming and crying, whilst Harry with his hairspray hair et al, bowled into a room waving the book in question. I mean, can it get any worse? Is there a clearer insult to British music than these clowns having a third, successful book out? It is apparently called "Where We Are" and documents, well you guessed it. 

What can these cocky, little gobshites actually have to tell us that is insightful or has any meaning? "I was a mouthy little prat at school, then some record company bigwig saw that I could dance and sing at the same time without falling over. The rest, thanks to the terrifying state of modern music, is history."

As such, I wanted to talk about a night that had all the beautific, poignancy for me as some of the greatest shows of the modern era. U2 at Slane Castle, Oasis at Knebworth, The Led Zep reunion all had great significance, as did Peter Doherty and Friends at the Hackney Empire on April 12th. Granted the title does not have the same tub-thumping wow-factor but for a small and hardcore following, the planets aligned to perfectness, for just one night only. 

This was Peter's second night at the Empire, Hackney being his spiritual home since the fall out the drugs, the 'shambles etc. The first night he had performed, duetting mainly with Alan Wass and Burt Jansch before being joined by the likes of Kate Moss (his then girlfriend), The General and rapper Lethal Bizzle for an eclectic set.  

The buzz surrounding the second night was that their could, potentially, be a Libertines reunion on the cards. This would have been the first reunion since the problematic split of Carl and Peter in late 2004 and something of course fans still pine for, even as we move into 2014 (for the record - the pair have not been in contact for at least 6 months sadly). 
I was holding my breath and a rather inebriated Wass, regaled us with stories in the pub behind the venue in the lead up to the show. He also performed a few tracks with the enigmatic frontman in the first half of the set, while one of Peter's many 'friends' painted a large, swirling picture as the music played beside him on stage. Quite bizarre. 

The crowd were of course seated and well behaved, but the acoustic show tranquillity was beginning to grate on me and I headed to the bar for further lubrication. I remember Peter tuning his acoustic guitar, before announcing to the crowd, "You have been waiting for this moment. Carlos Barat!" Cue a cacophony of screams and cheers as people got to their feet and made their way to the stage. Sadly though, Peter was just jesting, or so it seemed. "What do you expect for £25?" joked Peter, who despite the fuggy haze of addiction, is always able to pull out a dry quip when required. 

A moment passed, then from the left-hand corner of the stage, Carl Barat sauntered on wearing a rather dapper Dior Homme suit and a grey trilby, much to the elation of the Hackney crowd. It was like watching an Old-Beatles video, people climbed over one another, forgetting theatre protocols to snap on their phones and be part of this moment in British music history. 

One thing of note, was that as soon as Carl arrived there was a bond, bonhomie (call it what you will) between the artists that unfortunately has not been witnessed since. They were glad to do this ad-hoc show and it most certainly showed in the setlist that followed. Armed with just two guitars, but a theatre full of adoration and good will, they ripped through a set, comprising a number from 'Legs 11' and 'Up The Bracket,' with only 'What Katie Did' (a song Carl wrote for Peter) making it from their latter material.  

 The set list played was: 

'What A Waster'
'Death On The Stairs'
'The Good Old Days'
'What Katie Did'
'Dilly Boys'
'Seven Deadly Sins'
'Tell The King'
'Don't Look Back Into The Sun'
'Dream A Little Dream Of Me'
'Time For Heroes'
'The Delaney'

The songs were purely fan favourites and it showed how much, the pair wanted or even needed to play them after two or more years in the wilderness. Lets not forget, these two were the future of British music. They saved us from Oasis and derivative, dull, coke-addled British rock tripe. They were genuine, they cared and tonight that was all that mattered. 

It was a night of romance and nostalgia. Carl tap-danced his way through 'Dream a Little Dream...' 'Seven Deadly Sins' was played with heart and soul, 'The Good Old Days' felt rather than an ode to regret, a paean to a new future. A song of hope. 

Peter and Carl disappeared after an emotional 'Albion' a song rumoured to have been featuring on the third Libs album, before the band famously imploded. They returned for a raucous version of 'The Delaney' as the crowd jumped and danced wildly as if it was 2002 all over again. 

Finally, Peter and Carl left the stage arm in arm, triumphant, with the world once again at their very feet. A buoyant, jubilant crowd raced around to the back of the venue, where the boys continued the show, with an acoustic version of 'Cant Stand Me Now,' the crowd outside now a good 300-strong all singing along in fine fettle. Kate Moss made an appearance at the window smiling; the world as they say, was at one. 

The night was of course beautiful because it signified hope. Like Gatsby's 'orgiastic future' represented by the green light, The founding Libertines ,arm in arm, beer in hand, representing that perhaps all rock n' roll feuds, no matter how bitter, can be overcome. 
Sadly to this day, we still wait for the long-term reunion the fans want. We are now knocking on the door of 2014. Peter lives in Paris and with Babyshambles returning triumphantly with 'Prequel...' it still seems unlikely. It appears that both parties have ruled out another money-spinning summer like 2010, but while there is still fire in Carl's belly and breath in Pete's lungs, there is a green light, a hope that The Good Old Days, may yet return.