“Fuck, 20 years! said Les Guignols de l’Info eleven years ago. Damn, 20 years since the first album of the Libertines landed in the charts, on October 14, 2002 precisely. No less puppets than our favorite puppets, the Libertines have long been in the news, and few would have bet on the probability that the group still exists two decades later. It must be said that the odds of London bookmakers giving Pete Doherty still alive in 2022 had been seriously worrying in recent years. And yet, after a last cure made of raw cider and camembert in our beautiful Normandy, here we are, at the Zénith de Paris, to celebrate the porcelain wedding of the likely lads Pete Doherty and Carl Barât.
The time for us to reach our place, in the famous Category 3 bleachers, perfectly located to make the journalistic and sound experience as unpleasant as possible, in the middle of half-empty seats receiving all the parasitic reverberations of the hangar soulless that is the Zenith, that the set of the first part already begins, the South Londoners of PREGOBLIN.
Two on a stage that seems really big, for musicians probably more accustomed to low-ceilinged and smoky rooms than to a big warehouse still half empty. However, we will appreciate the show, which is much more rock than their studio productions would have predicted, a distorted, dense, quite hypnotic, certainly messy shoegaze show, the quintessence of which is probably located in more cramped spaces, the body loaded with various substances that we won’t go into detail here, because drugs are bad. A feeling shared by the public, who chill like on the banks of the Canal de l’Ourcq, until the appearance of a certain Pete Doherty, gray tweed suit on his shoulders, hat on his head, and Gladys, one of his two dogs, at his side, finally wakes up the crowd which acclaims the three musicians while admiring Pete intoning the chorus of this song. One hour ahead of schedule, looking healthy and not tipsy, with a delicate, ethereal voice… but who is this new man that gossips who haven’t listened to his latest album call Pete Groherty? ?
Reply later in the evening, and these are now trampoline who invest the stage of the Zénith to make us breathe a little air of Swansea. Jack Jones, frontman guitarist and colt of the Libertines team for a few years now, reminds us right away what a charismatic singer gives behind a microphone, and gets the few relentless mid-pitchers who came this evening to send the against each other. The rest of the audience sips their beer, and discusses Monday’s resumption of work, leaving Jack slightly alone as he tries to get them to intone a few well-placed ooooh oooohs. This is followed by the announcement of the future album, Rules Of Love & Warscheduled for March 17, 2023, perfectly teased by a sequence thinking again and Money which finally releases a heavy, powerful sound, which makes our heads and legs move, and gives us for the first time the desire to jump into the pit in defiance of the rules and conventions. Uncle Brian’s Slaughterhouse offers us a small moment of calm seeing the return of Pete Doherty for a string chorus and filled with vocal grace. The first phones come out to film the scene, Pete and Gladys leave, and the Jack Jones tape ends on a alcohol kiss great evenings, solo on the knees, frenzied chorus, and always the same fifteen people jumping into the crowd. A predominant thought, that of putting an alert on the future album and the future tour of the Trampolene, and very much hoping to see them again headlining in a room to their measure, with an audience a little less obsessed with the main event of the evening.
But before the main event, ads, because that’s obviously what people are there for. At the price of the place, really, we will thank the Zénith for broadcasting bland spots and not music. Anyway, we forget everything, a large curtain is stretched at the back of the stage representing four CRS on an orange-red background, The Libertines written above them, Up The Bracket in typewriter letterpress at their feet, and Jungle Boogie is sent into the enclosures.
9:30 p.m., perfectly on time, the gang arrives in front of the cover of an album that is already twenty years and ten days old. Pete, in the costume we already know him, Carl dressed like a fusion between John Steed and a mobster from the 30s, bowler hat, black jacket, white shirt, and black suspenders, and finally, completing the frontline, the historical bassist, John Hassall, suit and tie indicating without a shadow of a doubt that he is the one who does the accounting for the group at the end of the evening. Last but not least, Gary Powell, slightly swearing with his friends, in a green tracksuit with white stripes, settles on the drums. Two knocks on the snare drum, and the riot heralded by the curtain can finally begin. Vertigo therefore sees the ushers relax slightly, most of the people confined to Category 3 take the opportunity to dive into the crowd, and we will not say more about our actions. In the pit, from the side, the sound is still frankly messy, as long as you are not well between the two facades that frame the stage: the guitars step on each other, the voices a little less pushed, more delicate, de Pete and Carl are struggling to float in this soup, and only the drums come out more or less in a state of unpleasant experience.
Problem of sound placement solved, right in front of the stage, we finally distinguish the instruments, and the show starts for good on the razor strokes balanced in the intro of Horror Showsong with unstoppable energy that sends the whole pit in the air. Time for Heroes, Up The Bracket and Tell The King will obviously be the popular events of a first album played in order. It’s pure, original, the crowd salutes the performance, quick flashes ignite the cover in the background to Boys In The Band, the riot goes off again for a bang, and Gary drops the track jacket to violently thump his shirtless toms, beading with sweat. Phew, it’s hot, don’t you think? Radio-America calms things down, and lets us appreciate Pete’s newfound voice, bringing him back to his current element and his latest collaboration with Frédéric Lo, a softer, more acoustic element, a tenderness that is pleasing. Beer squirts start for Up The Bracket, it’s up to Carl to take off his jacket, and find himself in a white shirt, suspenders, and bowler hat, Clockwork Orange atmosphere on this creaking guitar solo, carved into the flesh. To rest all the organisms except his own, Gary sends a good big drum solo before Beggingsame before The Good Old Days, this time accompanied by John for the bassline. Because we too often forget that the Libertines without Gary Powell, it would have been much less good, and that it takes talent to rhythmically follow such crazy people wherever they go.
The pit is tight, the rest of the public a little less, and Pete has to go find everyone so that it starts to clap in unison. First big thrill at the end of The Good Old Days, as Carl and the audience, in chorus, supply lascivious complaints behind a Pete who remembers the good old days. The good old days that are definitely buried by I Get Along. Pete and Carl no longer have the energy of the first days, the “guerilla gigs” are now behind them, the mess on stage remains fairly contained, as in the pit, and we see the group more often regrouping around the drums , as if to meet up a little and commune, to really go towards the public as one would expect. A state of mind symbolized by this line swung by Pete at the end of the album, “This was Up the Bracket, see you in another 20 years! “, before throwing his guitar at a technician, a small jet of three or four meters rather risky, we admit. A sequence that sounds like “OK it’s 20 years, we did it, we’re older, now let’s start the concert guys! “.
Thus, the group leaves the stage, followed by a lights out, but the group returns, and “mayday mayday mayday” shout Pete Doherty and Carl Barât into the same microphone, on the verge of rolling a skate. A return to the sources of their love which continues on What A Wasterthen it’s the reunion album, and the two start banging the microphone again to Gunga Din. The scene is then left to the two lovers, a spot for Carl on piano, a spot for Pete on vocals, and here he is saying You’re My Waterloo kissing Gladys while the pit lights lighters and phones to enjoy the romance. A moment of complicity between two men with a complicated history and relationship, and a beautiful moment of communion with the public. Because it’s on these songs that they feel best now, and Pete proves it, smiling on his lips, repeatedly strumming his strings to initiate with many swordsman feints the sweet and beautiful What Katie Did. “Shoop shoops” sung between Carl and the room, a song in almost a capella, except for the discreet kick and tchak of the drums and the sober and quiet line of a decidedly changed Pete Doherty, and all the words are taken up in unison by a delighted, conquered and loving audience. This same public which sings then shouts the refrain of What Became Of The Likely Lads as if to say to the two puppets waddling on stage, yes, that’s what you’ve become. It was unexpected, you should be dead or separated forever, and who knows what would hurt these two the most, but there you are, we are all there, singing “what became of the dreams we had?” “. Damn, 20 years!
The group refreshed, found, and its audience in heaven, Can’t Stand Me Now makes everyone’s heart beat to the same rhythm of shouts and jumps in the pit, in a perfectly just harmony, if not for Pete’s haphazard line on the harmonica which ends up making the song soar awkwardly. But if we support them, if we love them for twenty years, it’s much more for their awkwardness, their romanticism, and all these emotions too strong for them that flow into their songs and their crazy couple, than for any accuracy mature and school. We want to tell Pete, Carl, and also a little Sally not to look into a far too burning past, to take advantage of this moment of grace, a magical, incomparable moment, which ends with a well-deserved standing ovation, hats off to be still there after all these adventures, and it’s not Pete who will say the opposite, he who will lose his headgear twice while greeting with his companions a crowd that has fallen in love again.
After all the filth and all the vicissitudes, the Libertines are nothing more than love, Norman cider, camembert, bowler hat and leather boots, and if you tell yourself that all that would make a good evening, let me tell you that you are actually right.
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Live report: The Libertines, Trampolene, PREGOBLIN – Paris, Zenith – 24.10.2022
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