sun 05/04/2020

The Libertines, Margate Winter Gardens – last post on the TS Eliot-named tour | reviews, news & interviews

The Libertines, Margate Winter Gardens – last post on the TS Eliot-named tour

The Libertines, Margate Winter Gardens – last post on the TS Eliot-named tour

The ageing hell-raisers return to their adopted home for a pre-Christmas blow-out

Likely lads: The Libertines

Once upon a time – before the nation’s schism – an indie band with dubious reputation espoused the virtues of Albion and invited us on the good ship Arcadia to travel to this Utopia. Things are a bit different now.

Once upon a time – before the nation’s schism – an indie band with dubious reputation espoused the virtues of Albion and invited us on the good ship Arcadia to travel to this Utopia. Things are a bit different now.

Unfashionably nostalgic and romantic, preposterously self-indulgent and adolescent, do The Libertines really have any relevance in this brutal post-truth age? Maybe they’re just what we need when the concept of Britishness is being so fiercely fought over? They make their entrance to the ironic strains of Vera Lynn’s “White Cliffs of Dover” just 10 days after the pro-Brexit landslide election (one local MP is already suggesting we adopt “white cliff values”). Their Albion is not the land Farage et al want to take us back to. And while their fans revel in nostalgia tonight, they’re certainly not from “planet Thanet”.

Arriving at the end of the 17-night “On the Road to the Waste Land” European tour, The Libertines are on adopted home turf. One part arty, one trendy and 10 seedy, this seems like the perfect place for them (although how long the Albion Rooms hotel and Waste Land pub within lasts is anyone’s guess). But they’ve thrown themselves into the community, sponsoring the local football team and smashing the nobody-can-eat-this-mega-breakfast challenge failed by so many.

So, it’s a homecoming. And a sold-out one to boot. But are we due a no-show, a “Horrorshow” or a “Time for Heroes”? It’s a beer-swilling, cider-spilling mosh pit of an event with enthusiastic participation from every corner. This is music from another age, a more innocent time when all the tabloids had to do was tap phones and chase Kate Moss around. Songs like “What Became of the Likely Lads”, “Up the Bracket” and “Can’t Stand Me Now” transport you straight back to the early Noughties. They’re just damned fine tunes and it still amazes that such insight and melody can come from such chaos.

Doherty (sporting the obligatory pork pie trilby) and Barât are all spit and swagger, one minute feigning daggers drawn, the next belting out a blinder they wrote back in the day. They kick off with crowd-pleaser “The Delaney” and rattle through 22 singalong tunes, some of the highlights (of which there are many) being “Waterloo”, “Music When the Lights Go Out” and “Gunga Din” (the literary allusions have never been far away). It’s an explosion of noise, an hour and a half of escapism before we have to remember it’s 2019 again. And so it seems apt to finish with TS Eliot and that poem: On Margate Sands./I can connect/Nothing with nothing./The broken fingernails of dirty hands./My people humble people who expect/Nothing”. Merry Christmas!

@kathrynsreilly

Nostalgic and romantic, self-indulgent and adolescent, do The Libertines really have any relevance in this brutal post-truth age?

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