2015TheLibertines_AnthemsForDoomedYouth_020715The Libertines

Coventry : The Empire

Jan 19th 2016

Live Review

Very soon, The Libertines, the band we thought we might never see again, will embark on a tour of the UK’s biggest music barns.  This follows a run of Festivals and Fest-lites last year, so when a gig at Coventry’s Empire popped up on my twitter timeline on Monday, I bought tickets first and wondered if it was true second.  This was the crazy-tempting first opportunity to see them somewhere even approaching intimate since 2010.  I last watched the Libs in 2002 (I think) and had ignored the Spring tour as I didn’t fancy a big old shed, so this gig had a lot to live up to.

My friend and I had both expected a crowd of around our age ‘early’ 30s, and we couldn’t have been more wrong.  I reckon you can judge the age of an audience on how full the pit is – average waist size goes up with age – and if the crowd had been older I don’t think we’d have all fit in the Empire.

The night started with April.  A 5-piece, who among other things provide all you would require from a Mancunian frontman in the late 90s; except he was a toddler then, and they’re from North Warwickshire, not the North West.  They’re tight and were well received, even by an understandably impatient crowd.  I’d say their only downfall was referring to that impatience.  Still, their slightly Charlatansy, slightly punky songs were really good, and show massive promise, I’d definitely give them another viewing.  It also seems the impatience to see the Libs wasn’t ours alone, I spotted the lead singer dancing like an absolute loon during their set.

After a longer than standard break (surprise!) Diamond Dogs came on the PA, then The Libertines came on stage.  We were on the balcony, due mainly to my triple-twisted ankle and unwillingness to be kicked, so had a good view of the swirling, churning pit.  Clearly none of the enthusiasm for the band has been lost over the years.  They didn’t start slow, but did start cautiously.  Carl and Pete, Indie Rock’s very own Blues Brothers, circling rather than embracing each other, which meant something was missing…  but they were playing the part and their parts with aplomb. It didn’t feel like 14 years since I last saw them, Carl and Gary appear to sleep in preserving fluid, and the crowd was exactly as mental as you’d expect.

In fact the pit was one of the stars of the night; from my lofty viewing platform I found my gaze shifting from it to stage and back again over and over again.  Security started ultra-vigilant, with a laser pointer, and ended up concentrating on pulling the crowd surfers to safety, ignoring the shoulder-sitters, smokers and circle pits.  The first real respite for us all came with ‘What Katie Did’, still as sweet as eve, and performed brilliantly by the rock n roll scarecrow Mr Doherty appears to be impersonating.

The thing with the Libs is the ‘hits’ just keep on coming, anything from the first two electric albums went down marginally better, but to me that’s understandable, and I didn’t notice a low point, just the highs.  One was Pete’s Twist and Shout, which he sang like a naughty schoolboy trying to avoid the eye of prefect Carl, and with the very vocal support of the audience. As time went on the boys from Albion got over their first date nerves and moved close, by the end they were embracing, faux-kissing and mickey taking like long-time lovers.  Carl introduced John to the crowd, then his wayward friend ‘Kula Shaker’.

When they left after Time for Heroes no pretence was made about an encore…  a rousing chorus of ‘Shit on the Villa’ (I think Gary’s a Blues fan) and ‘Twist and Shout’ later and they were back.  A lot is made (including by me in this article) of the Carl/Pete dynamic, but that belittles the steadying, commanding presence of Gary.  He keeps them going, still strips within a couple of bars, and when late on it looked like they were about to meander down a cul-de-sac simply started the next song.  If Pete’s a naughty younger brother, Carl’s a show-offy middle sibling, and Gary’s the boss.  That’s not to belittle John, but as originally requested, he doesn’t really share in the limelight.

So were they shambolic?  Much less than expected.  Pete missed his cue for Can’t Stand me now – and at one point had his tie pulled across his face by an impatient Barat – but for the most part they were tight, together and electric.  Not that it would have mattered.  It’s been a while since I have seen a crowd go so unapologetically tits for a band from start to the finish.  The Libs may have been through the wringer, and may have only diaried in somewhat unnatural seeming stadium dates for the last two years, but this 700 capacity dingy venue is where they belong, and luckily for them, and the older balcony dwellers, the teenagers still think so too.


Set list



The Heart of the matter

Horror Show

Fame and Fortune

Boys in the Band


The Milkman’s Horse

What Katie Did

Anthem for Doomed Youth

You’re my Waterloo


The Man who would be King

Gunga Din

Can’t Stand me Now

Twist and Shout

The Good Old Days


Belly of the Beast

Death on the Stairs


Music when the Lights go out

Time for Heroes


Up the Bracket

What a Waster

Don’t look back in to the Sun

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