The Good Old Days: the return of The Libertines
By rhian.daly on 19 August 2010Ever since Carl Barât’s drugs-or-the-band ultimatum to Pete Doherty backfired in 2004, the Libertines reunion rumour mill has been working over time to predict when the boys in the band to put aside their issues and pick up their guitars again. At a press conference in April, it was finally announced that that day had arrived and the four men who captured the hearts and minds of a nation’s music lovers were to make their return on the main stage at Reading and Leeds at the end of the summer. With those gigs just over a week away, now feels like the right time to get our expectations in check and weigh up the situation. Will the final notes of ‘I Get Along’ ring out across the field, echoing through our hollowed, dead souls or will 100,000 people be left dazed from witnessing one of Britain’s great modern bands back together and on form?
Of course, the motive behind the reunion could be the crucial point between success and failure. Undoubtedly, The Libertines are back in business for the money, no question. Who wouldn’t be when Festival Republic come knocking on your door, showering you with 1.2 million shiny pounds in return for only two shows? But whether the cash is the only reason for getting back together is another matter entirely. The band themselves have maintained their all-about-the-music stance from day one, even when questioned about it by countless journalists and scrutinized by message board-dwelling fans the world over, but whilst they might have got their poker faces down to a tee, the real way to see if they’ve been telling the truth lies in the performance. They have the potential to outshine headliners Arcade Fire within one bar but if their hearts aren’t in it, they will merely be a flickering torch to the Canadians’ sparkling chandelier of light.
Assuming our old Arcadian friends are doing it for all the right reasons though, there’s then the small matter of them not having played together as Messrs Barât, Doherty, Hassall and Powell for near enough six years. With other commitments keeping the four apart, rehearsals only got under way in the second week of August and by the time bank holiday weekend comes around only two warm up shows (one for friends and family, one open to fans) will have been played. Even for a band who built their legacy on being shambolic and chaotic, such little time to refresh their memories of chord progressions and choruses might not be enough.
What they play could also be the difference between a hoard of frenzied teenagers and a sea of bored faces shouting for the ‘hits’. Some of The Libertines’ best songs remain unreleased, left in shadowy corners of the internet for savvy fans to stumble across but whilst hardcore fans might want to hear those tracks live, crowds at one of the biggest festivals in the country probably aren’t going to share that enthusiasm. That leaves us with the ‘Can’t Stand Me Now’s and ‘Time For Heroes’ end of the Libs catalogue, and although they might not be part of everyone’s dream set list but they are more likely to unite the whole crowd in singing along with all their might.
Whether or not this reunion is one of the select few that actually end up being good is still unknown but we’re hoping for legacy’s sake it’s the most talked about and exciting set of the weekend. The thing about these boys, though, is there’s always the potential for it to go very, very wrong. Which, I suppose, is all part of The Libertines’ charm.
By Rhian Daly.