The Libertines. Virgin Music Arena. 29.8.20

Tonight, given that it already feels like a typical North-Eastern Autumn night, is a good night to be a rock star.  And it’s a particularly good night to be an indie rock star. 

To keep us all warm, tonight is the kind of night an outdoors crowd needs some swaggering, aloof, rockstars with that particular mix of Americanist musical perfection and an, empathetic, British understanding of cold, northern, nights in the middle of Summer.

Perhaps a rock star in his own mind, The Snuts frontman Jack Cochrane couldn’t look more comfortable answering this demand as his band kick off tonight’s show.

Full of funk-groove led indie bangers, The Snuts, and Cochrane in particular, perform as if the whole world had come to watch them; highlights ‘Glasgow’ and ‘Don’t forget it punk’ both encapsulating a sound full of confident, Duran Duran, baselines and not such subtle references to heavy living.  Like with the great rock stars, the crowd take a lead from Cochrane; if he looks like he’s having a good time, we feel like we are too.  If he doesn’t look like it’s minus 20 outside, then we don’t feel cold either.  A cover of ‘Summer in the city’, clearly a nod to the ludicrousness of the current climate, steals a show full of great songs, swagger and an understanding of their role (‘we know it’s cold, but if we don’t acknowledge it, then you won’t either and we can all pretend it’s actually summer).

And then we jump from the up and coming rock stars to the real things; the greatest writing duo of the 00’s and the ones with the press cuttings to boot.  Dressed up like it’s winter (with Pete decked out in a trench coat and sporting a Robert Smith haircut) the Albion searchers hit the stage dead on their 9 start time.  Tonight though it’s not Barat or Doherty who define rock-starness, or even prodigious drumming talent Gary Powell, tonight’s ultimate rock star winner falls to John Hassall who’s supporting vocals, on-point bass playing and overall sense of enjoyment steals the show and finds him positively glowing with star-factor.  

For the Libertines, and their live show, it’s a game of two-half’s now really at this point in their career.  Looking healthy and content as a unit, and clearly at home headlining a large outdoor event, their shows are surely a better experience for them nowadays without their pains of old.  They play well, they play the hits, and they don’t fall over.

Maturity often arrives with a trade-off though and tonight it’s the deal that the crowd get grown up men who arrive on time and play well, instead of young lads breaking themselves open in a chaotic search for transcendence through their live shows. 

But there you go; we all must make compromises eventually.

In a perfectly fine evening, there is one standout moment for us all though; one moment where we all win.  One sight of Albion.  Almost twenty-year-old, it’s ‘Boys in the band’, with its lose playing and its perfectly shambolic delivery that executes the original Libertines manifesto of finding perfection through imperfection. 

Albion’s still there, it’s maybe just less keen to go through the pain it needs in order to reveal itself.  

We needed our rock stars tonight, and they didn’t let us down.  But when your standout rock star is your bassist then how times have changed.

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