You join us on Day 2 of Storm Eunice in Cardiff. Day 1 was characterised by 88 miles per hour winds, Day 2 sees the equally blustery rock’n’roll force of The Libertines ‘Giddy Up A Ding Dong tour’ blow into the city. Cheesy figures of speech aside, there is an air of relief around tonight’s show – previously postponed from December after the COVID pandemic ripped it’s way through the tour camp, the minor-hurricane looked for a moment as if it could put paid to the rescheduled plans but as the winds eased off, the show carried on. Anyone who thought Peter Doherty’s newly won sobriety would make things more predictable has been proven firmly wrong.
Beefing up the bill for Barat, Doherty, Hassall and Powell on this Saturday night are Gary’s recent signings to 25 Hour Convenience Store records Dead Freights and Peter’s pals Trampolene, both worthy successors and torch bearers of The Libertines aesthetic and ideals.
Dead Freights slink onstage and, with tight jeans, foppishly good hair and an arsenal of dark, bass-heavy, blues-punk numbers, prove themselves to be agents of proper sexual rock’n’roll with a healthy helping of the good kind of garage band sleaze. Frontman Charlie James announces the name of one song – ‘Hot Diggity Damn, I’m Gonna Kill Your Man’ so directly you get the feeling he’s delivering a promise. The fact he plays his guitar so forcefully that he needs to grab a replacement half way through only adds to their play hard brio.
Trampolene have another ambience, one of brave Swansea City sing-a-longs in a passionately Cardiffian crowd, Jack Jones, outwardly proud to be flanked by his original bandmates – bassist Wayne Thomas and drummer Kyle “Mr” Williams on violent form, fervidly countering chants of “You Jack bastard” with a set of career spanning tunes to win over the most loyal football fan: ‘Oh Lover’, scuzzy highlight of latest album ‘Love No Less Than A Queen’, swoonsome ‘Beautiful Pain’, dedicated to a couple in the audience who chose the record for their wedding reception first dance, the sub-two-minute rocket ‘Adrenaline’, the trio bowing off the stage with an embrace after a celebratory rendition of ‘Alcohol Kiss’.
There’s a sudden shift in the atmosphere before the headliners take the stage as Kool & The Gang’s ‘Get Down On It’ plays over the speakers and causes a ripple of surprised cheers, the cue for The Libs to assume their positions with a soundtrack of vintage British comedy clips from Hancocks Half Hour or Only Fools and Horses following on, the clips also distributed through the set during between-song downtime. Carl Barat looks the ever stylish professional, in original punk leathers and denims, Peter Doherty clad in Chas’n’Dave suit and Adidas trainers, John Hassall in beatnik mod attire and drumming powerhouse Gary Powell shirtless in a sharp yellow tracksuit, the four seem newly happy and assured in their apparent dissonance.
The beauty of a Libertines gig is, as their recorded output is currently only three brilliant albums, they’re guaranteed to play all you’re hoping to hear. Tonight is no exception. When the stoic Barat leaps a couple foot in the air and militantly strums through ‘The Boy Looked At Johnny’ there’s an explicit buzzsaw Ramones resemblance. ‘Can’t Stand Me Now’ has been exorcised of any bitterness as the two frontman swap “I can’t take you anywhere” lines with a Carry On arch camp-humour eye roll instead of exasperation, falling together into hugs instead of shoves. Doherty takes the mic on alone as Carl performs on piano for a tenderly brittle play through of ‘You’re My Waterloo’, Barat taking his place front of stage again for the Django Reinhardt-esque middle eight guitar solo.
The most adoration from the crowd is raised by the rabble-rousers ‘What A Waster’, ‘Up The Bracket’, ‘Horrorshow’ and ‘Don’t Look Back Into The Sun’ with an especially, energetic outpouring of love for ‘The Delaney’. When Peter declares “Cardiff, we came all this way to play some songs for you” he receives a thousand person bellow reply from a roomful of rowdy souls who are evidently glad they did.
After leaving the stage before the encore, the band are gone for what seems like a hefty many minutes, before returning to deliver a final five songs. Powell tears into a thunderous, epic drum and cowbell roll, beckoning in ‘The Good Old Days’, featuring a Peter-led interlude of ‘There She Goes’ by The La’s and the set is topped off with a hearty performance of ‘Time For Heroes’. Doherty lifts the red and green Welsh dragon flag draped over the drum riser, wraps it around the band who then disperse, bowing their way into the wings, leaving Gary as the sole survivor, breathless but still exuding enthusiasm, declaring his love for the elated and sweaty Cardiff crowd. And so the Albion sails on course. Thank fuck for that!