The Libertines - Live - Wed 17th Dec 2003 - Kentish Town Forum
This wasn’t a gig. This was a celebration. An act of worship. A 2-way exchange of adulation: group/audience - audience/group. A multiple orgasm in an audiovisual format. Group sex with total satisfaction for all parties. An orgy of light & sound. A rock n roll gang bang.
2003 will go down as the year the myth of The Libertines rose above the idle chattering of the posing classes & assumed a pedigree of genuine worth. Smack, crack, fight, split, rob, jail & back. The year the good ship Arcadia sailed into Albion’s most famous of ports & raised the flag of integrity in defiance of the Stars & Stripes.
Some chancers will tell you The Libertines are the most important British rock n roll group since The Smiths. Those kind of people have absolutely no idea about rock n roll. The Smiths were about as rock n roll as Prince Charles. The Libertines are the most important British rock n roll band since The Clash. It’s that fucking obvious, even Charles Char Murray knows it: no bullshit detector required.
The Forum forecourt is strangely muted when we arrive to take our place amongst the throng. The shows may have sold out quicker than the Yeah Yeah Yeahs signing to Polydor - but we still couldn’t shift the spare ticket we brought with us. Touts patrol the pavements like paramilitary entertainment advisors in war torn Belgade:
Nah, mate. If it’s for upstairs I can only offer you a 5 spot. I’d only have to stand out here in the fucking freezing cold for another half an hour to shift that.
I pocket the ticket & walk towards the entrance.
C’mon, mate. If you’re gonna walk in with it you may as well just give it me.
I cock him a crooked mile smile & hand the ticket to the first Libertines fan I can find without a ticket. The kid looks bemused and asks what he owes me. I tell him to have a trakMARX Xmas & enjoy the show for free. He smiles - & then blushes.
Inside the venue the atmosphere is reverential. Someone spotted Liam Gallagher arrive (possibly for a few song-writing lessons from Pete & Carl - probably to lig with The Bandits). Yesterday’s papers, anyone?
We take our seats just in time to catch The Bandits amble through a perfunctory display of La’s C-sides - saved only by a pedestrian stab at the MC5’s Looking At You (somebody should tell them you have to be as good as The Damned before you can pull off that kind of stunt). It’s a shame we weren’t here last night as Chas & Dave could probably knock 7 shades of shit out of The Bandits with a soggy syringe (with one arm behind their backs).
The Forum is heaving. The massed ranks could be at a football stadium awaiting the FA Cup Winners home-ground return. We’re sitting next to a brother & sister from Leicester who have fallen foul of the Rail network & been right Royal fleeced for an extra £50+ per head during their journey to London. They claim they would have given a bruised arm & a leg to ensure they took their place in the auditorium & have duly forgotten the injustice already. As The Libertines take the stage the sister punches the air like she’s hitting out at a Coventry fan & proceeds to sing along to each & every tune with the kind of veracity usually attributed to Jehovah’s Witnesses. This is a life affirming moment.
The Forum holds around 2500 punters & every man jack is totally engaged as Pete & Carl prowl the stage like prize fighters knocking out fat purse contenders like coconuts at a shy. The Libertines have come of age tonight. Like The Clash at the Lyceum around the same time in 1978 - this group are in total control of their destiny & only death can stop them now.
The set is basically a greatest hits show: most of Up The Bracket, a clutch of b-sides & a smattering of new tunes destined for the forthcoming Butler-produced sophomore LP. The next scheduled 45, Last Post On The Bugle, is a glorious example - ample proof (if any was required) that things can only get even better.
Pete & Carl shed clothing at will before both are eventually bare-chested - lapping up the love of the audience like a thirsty cat in front of a full milk bowl. They pout, they strut, they shape up, they share mics, they knock mics over, they pummel their gtrs, they pour out their hearts, they mount & dismount drum risers, they smile & they look/sound for all the world like the greatest rock n roll show to hit town in eons. The crowd are enraptured.
An hour passes quicker than a piss you’ve been holding in your aching bladder for several days. The set climaxes with Pete inviting the entire audience onto the stage for a baby shamble encore through I Get Along. It’s hard to see the wood for the trees - the group for the fans - the point in following absolutely any other British Rock n Roll group at this precise moment in time.
They may have only released a couple of 45s in 2003, but The Libertines still took the year by the scruff of the neck & shook all the dandruff from it’s shrugged shoulders. The Libertines are packed with contempt for losers, fakers & tired shakermakers. The Libertines make the last 25 years seem like an utter waste of a quarter of a century.
In Pete Doherty, the Blank Cheque Generation have a hero to equal Joe Strummer. In Carl Barat, Generation Why have a rock god to match Mick Jones. Jagger/Richards, Strummer/Jones, Doherty/Barat - history is woven from fibre of this quality.
Rock - & in a very real sense - roll. Phew.
Johnny Forgotten - tMx 13 - 01/03