With a line up like this, it feels more like a mini-festival than a Monday night gig. When Reverend and the Makers are the ‘openers’ you know that you’re in for an adrenalin filled ride.
Affable frontman John Mclure is the perfect person to get the party startedand although it’s early, as there’s 3 bands to perform before the 11 o’clock curfew, he manages to get the crowd in singalong mode and get their toes tapping. By the time ‘Shine a Light’ is played the atmosphere is building and ‘Heavyweight Champion of the World’ the pulsating rhythm has contagiously grasped the audience and the Revs are being treated like headliners. As they leave the stage to ‘Silence is Talking’ I know that the trumpet hook from the song will be with me for at least the next two days.
Amusing that this song was used for a marmite advertisement as next band up Sleaford Mods are what you could call a Marmite band as there’s no middle ground with these guys. You either ‘get them’ or you don’t. I’m in the happy position of definitely getting them and their minimal beats.
Lead singer Jason’s vocals may sound like an aggressive aural attack to the uninitiated, but to those of us who ‘get it’ it’s sheer poetry. Opening with ‘Key Markets’ from the recent album of the same name Sleaford Mods have their hometown crowd eating out of their hands from the off.
Having seen them before in a tiny venue it was hard to envisage exactly how they would go down in an arena – my worries were unfounded and when crowd favourite ‘Jolly Fucker’ hit the crowd like a juggernaut. Quickly followed by further hits ‘Tied up in Nottz’ and ‘Jobseeker’ – the latter with the improvised ‘lip up fatty’ intro. Keep the tempo at the maximum.
Then they are off with a bluntness that conveys their whole performance as Jason throws him microphone to the floor and strides off the stage, leaving resident button pusher in chief Andrew to amble off behind him.
Much like the Sleafords, I’ve only ever seen The Libertines in tiny venues and it’s been well over 10 years since I’ve seen them. I’ve seen every incarnation that they’ve had after The Libertines split – Babyshambles and Dirty Pretty Things – and even saw The Libertines, minus Pete in Paris way back in 2004. So I’m also intrigued as to how they will approach the arena setting.
They come on to the strains of Bowies ‘Diamond Dogs’ – which indicates how self assured they’re currently feeling as let’s face it who would want to follow Bowie?
They hit the stage with confident swagger with western sounding opener Barbarians from their latest album ‘Anthems for Doomed Youth’ and the crowd are in raucous mood making this vast arena look like one massive mosh pit . They might as well be in a tiny venue as the energy rippling through the crowd emanating from the stage is unbelievable for a big venue.
Old favourites ‘Horrorshow’ , ‘Boys in the Band’ and ‘What Katie Did’ give us a brilliant flashback and Pete and Carl treat us to the shared microphone antics that was their trademark in the early years….nostalgia is popular and the crowd are lapping it up.
It has to be said that both Pete and Carl look in fine fettle. Carl cutting a fine figure in black topped with a magnificent hat and even Pete looks like he’s had a good nights sleep. Time has definitely been good to these guys and they have improved with age.
Taking to the piano Carl slows the pace down for ‘You’re My Waterloo’ the twinned melodic piano and guitar melding together perfectly and the crowd show their appreciation loudly.
Two assistants dressed in the red guard coats for which the Libertines were once famous bring refreshments in the shape of what looks like half a lager onto the stage and sashay off as quickly as they came on.
It’s a well balanced set list covering all albums and although I’m particularly biased towards the ‘Up the Bracket’ songs the crowd show no preference to old or new – as long as it’s libertines they don’t care. There isn’t much banter between band and crowd, the Libs have crammed so many songs into this set list it’s easy to see that they just let the music speak for itself.
The crowd are aching for the encore and ‘Up the Bracket’ , ‘What a Waster’ and ‘Don’t look back into the Sun’ ensure that the waiting crowd aren’t left disappointed and neither am I. Can The Libertines cut it in a big arena. Yes they certainly can.