For a band accustomed to headlining festivals and filling the odd arena, this 250-capacity performance was a quick sellout – one which attracted fans who queued for hours, and the odd blagger claiming to know a guy. This evening performance was just one of many intimate performances for The Libertines – a warmup show to preview their upcoming album, All Quiet On The Eastern Esplanade.
Prophetical to the band, doors to grassroots venue Clwb Ifor Bach open shy of two hours late, igniting the shambolic energy that characterised this evening. Openers Carpark is a confusing choice to support, their Americanised pop-rock struggling to capture this audience’s attention, but Coventry’s Shortstraw. are a more convincing fit as mouthpiece Erin West embodies the attitude so foundational to the career of the indie-rock headliners of the night.
Now in their mid-40s, the quartet have mostly ditched their stoicism and vices to approach songwriting more maturely. These days, Pete Doherty reportedly favours French cheese over his old lifestyle but remains a lover of romanticism. He takes the stage wearing a flat cap adorned with a rosary cross, while Carl Barat sports the same haircut he had in the 2000s.
Whether it’s the small scale of this event, or the evocation of nostalgia, the first track Up The Bracket transports this crowd to a sleazy early-00s underground club. Amidst the hazy chaos of halcyon day tracks like Vertigo and What Became Of The Likely Lads, new track Run Run Run neatly finds its place, resembling the usual formula The Libertines are known for.
Night Of The Hunter takes its name and ideation from Charles Laughton’s 1995 film, combined with the repurposed melody from Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake; in person, however, this quasi-poetic piece fails to hold up next to time-tested tracks like Music When The Lights Go Out and Death On The Stairs. Shiver is more favourable: a glimmering example of Doherty and Barat’s chemistry in full force, their voices layered over one another to create an intoxicating experience.
The Libertines’ encore saves the best for last, where we hear Gunga Din played with the same self-assurance it was certainly given close to a decade ago, though the song likely bears new meaning to the frontmen in 2024. An ongoing battle between stage rushers and bouncers is concluded by The Good Old Days and Don’t Look Back Into The Sun, where the quartet leave us wanting more.
The Libertines, Shortstraw. + Carpark, Clwb Ifor Bach, Cardiff, Sat 27 Jan
words TERESA DELFINO photos EMMA LEWIS