Image: Flickr / Aurelien Guichard

The Libertines storm The Empire, Coventry

Let me preface this by stating that I do not deserve to be writing this review. Sure, by all means, I know ‘Don’t Look Back into the Sun’ and will happily sing along to ‘What Katie Did’ after a night at Kelsey’s but I am by no means a huge fan of The Libertines. This is mostly the reason why I was surprised when, on Tuesday afternoon, whilst frantically trying to secure a house to live in so I don’t have to domicile on the streets of Coventry next year, my phone beeped to tell me I had messages from separate people all telling me to “COME TO THE LIBERTINES IT’S ONLY £20.” I legitimately can’t thank them enough.

Why The Libertines chose Coventry’s very own Empire as a venue for their warm-up gig before kicking off a huge arena tour I have no idea. Maybe because they’ll sell you a pint of cider for four english pounds, or (more likely) because their support, April, hailed from the area. Unfortunately, to describe them I’d ask you to imagine what would happen if The Stone Roses and Oasis combined but lost all their energy in the process, with a vocalist who wanted to be Alex Turner and Liam Gallagher’s lovechild so much he almost spent a fiver on a haircut. Safe to say, they weren’t fantastic, and the crowd were more lively when they were singing along to the music the loudspeakers played in between sets. To be honest I’d have happily paid five pounds to sing along to classics by The Strokes and The Beatles for an hour. The most exciting part of their set came when Carl Barat stepped through the stage doors to watch a song and my friend almost had a panic attack.

Despite Pete Doherty having gained fifty pounds and a much worse haircut, it was easily one of their best performances in the last few years.

By the time the band arrived onstage the crowd was truly ecstatic. I haven’t seen a better crowd in a long time. With just 900 tickets going on sale the day before, with nine of them being sold to people living in Cryfield (although Cryfield was voted Offbeat Hall of the Year 2016 after all), and selling out in just over an hour(!), the crowd (well, mostly) were almost devoted to The Libertines. Every song had a excitable chorus of people screaming and shouting along. Despite Pete Doherty having gained fifty pounds and a much worse haircut, and everybody else looking visibly older, it was easily one of their best performances in the last few years. The band looked like they wanted to be together, in stark contrast to Hyde Park in 2014, where they all clearly wanted new houses, cars, or drugs.

There was clearly a bias towards the newest release, Anthems For Doomed Youth, but this did nothing to temper the intensity of the crowd. Whether in newer tracks like ‘Belly of the Beast’, which had never been performed live before, or older songs like ‘Music When the Lights Go Out’, the atmosphere was practically electric and the performances stellar – including an impromptu rendition by Doherty of ‘Twist and Shout’ with a guest feature by the entire audience.

It was almost a spiritual experience, or so one of my friends thought when she asked was whether we should “really talk about what happened in there.”

After their exit off the stage, and a rousing chant of ‘S**t on the Villa’, the band returned for a spectacular three song encore. It culminated in a performance of ‘Don’t Look Back into the Sun’, an all-time crowd favourite which led to me being separated from my friends by a good twenty metres. It was easily one of my top gig experiences and I’d give anything to experience it again.

I can’t recommend seeing The Libertines enough, and this was only enhanced by the intimate performance given that night.  Frankly she was amazed to see them before they died, and the rest of us were just impressed to see them at all.



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