Either by luck, or through execution of a near-perfect plan, the Libertines have managed in-fighting, drug abuse, jail time, tabloid intrusion and relationship breakdowns to become the 21st century’s best known UK band.
It’s this public awareness that has cemented the ‘Tines identity as a cultural force religiously championed by the guitar-loving, youthful, liberal, and some would say, hedonistic, parts of British society. Whilst original contemporaries the Strokes and the White Stripes have fallen into retirement, hibernation and sobriety, the Libs remain dedicated in their belief that excess will, ultimately, lead to the palace of wisdom; a belief most recently evidenced on 2014s Anthems for Doomed Youth, an album which maintained their career defined, punk rooted, attack on both the establishment and societal expectations.
Perversely, of the criticisms made about Doomed Youth, many focused on the bands maturation, suggesting that their reduction in explicit drug references and use of a less frantic pace stifled the creativity and urgency key to the impact of their first two LP’s. Rarely talking about the musicality of the band, or the skilled song writing partnership of Doherty and Barat, it felt as if the Libertines were being talked about as an aging, but brilliant, athlete.
It’s with caution that I use the words ‘mature’ and ‘Libertines’ in the same sentence but, reflecting some of the criticisms aimed at Doomed, it’s fair to say that the ‘Tines 2017 live show is very different to their 2004 live show. Still energised and jovial, the Libertines put on a show that is edgy and immediate; yet everything is a little calmer now; shirts are kept on now, crowds are no longer surfed, heaven forbid the band even arrive on time. Whilst the songs are, and were, always the focus of the Libertines success, the band often gave us tabloid headlines as accompaniment.
As Libertines fans perhaps now is time for us to ask ourselves if we are willing to trade intensity and erratic behaviour for, hopefully, a more prolific output calendar and a more consistent live show. It’s also the time to stop our fascination with the bands health and living vicariously through their antics.
Few bands have meant so much to so many people in Britain over the past 17 years and, whilst we may have to re-adjust our expectations of a Libertines live show, it’s nice to see the band together seemingly facing a more stable future.