Live Review/ The Libertines @ 02 Academy Bristol


By Jenny McDowell-Langford, first year Ancient History

Despite nearly 18 years passing since the Libertines first invigorated the indie scene with 2002’s Up the Bracket - the band still hold an authentic relationship with their audience as proved by their O2 Academy gig in December.  

A diverse crowd was in attendance, with the front mostly occupied by a throng of slightly alternative youths, and the back rows and balconies taken by 30 to 40 somethings with dodgy oasis haircuts wearing even dodgier hats. Nevertheless, the atmosphere was intense throughout the crowd, and anticipation was high before the band took to the stage.  

Image Credit - Epigram/ Jenny McDowell-Langford

Opener ‘The Delaney’ immediately set the tone, with the pit being sent into a pint throwing frenzy. Dressed in a brown woollen coat and flat cap, Pete Doherty had a subtle but commanding stage presence. As the band smashed through the setlist there was little communication with the crowd, however there didn’t seem to be a lack of a connection as they responded to each song with unbounded energy and excitement.  

Material from the legendary first two albums was received with equal enthusiasm from both new generations and old generations of fans. At the midpoint of the show any fading energy was immediately lifted as they played rousing anthem ‘Can’t Stand Me Now.’  

Another notable instance during the gig was during the encore when the band performed ‘Music When the Lights Go Out.’ The melancholic opening chords allowed the audience to collectively catch their breath, and it was at this point that the chemistry between the musicians was plainly obvious. Doherty’s acoustic guitar perfectly accompanied Carl Barât’s leading melody, and as they shared a mic during the rousing later verses and chorus their voices seemed to blend together, almost overwhelmed by the singing of the crowd.  

When seeing the Libertines live, the essence of the band is clear. Their punk influences are evident  - through their raw and heavy approach. There’s no need for an elaborate stage show; the music speaks for itself. The attitude of the band and low interaction with the crowd fits into this style, and is at times almost reminiscent of the Sex Pistols, but with a distinctly 'noughties' twist. Their unique intensity and flair was clear in the infamous last song, ‘Don’t Look Back into the Sun.’ Every word was screamed back by the crowd as they were completely enraptured, and it was here that the importance of the Libertines was palpable.

Featured Image: Epigram/ Jenny McDowell-Langford