Photos by Olivia Kenny
The Libertines commence celebrations for the 20th anniversary of their era-defining debut album Up The Bracket with four headline shows, the first of which took place tonight at Manchester’s Castlefield Bowl.
Up The Bracket was produced by Mick Jones of The Clash and took listeners then, and now, on a journey to a mythical world of the band’s own devise. It conjures up fevered dreams of Albion, a land of squalid glamour, liberty, equality, fraternity, gin palaces and chip shops. It has become a timeless British rock’n’roll classic debut as relevant now as it was upon its release.
Fans have flocked to Castlefield Bowl tonight and the typically wet Mancunian weather has dampened nobody’s spirits. They start predictably with a full album run through of Up The Bracket, including some songs they claim to have never played live. ‘Vertigo’ is the perfect track to open and has lost none of its veracity; ‘Horror Show’ whilst not being one of their most popular tracks sets the crowd moving without delay before ‘Time For Heroes’ takes two beats to get people going. ‘Radio America’ is delayed in its original acoustic and could easily have been lost in the cavernous space, yet it holds firm before title track ‘Up The Bracket’ sees any remaining still bodies bouncing along happily across the amphitheatre. ‘The Good Old Days’ still has its funky style and before we know what, Pete graciously tells us “That was Up The Bracket”. They then leave the stage for a short break.
They come back to ‘Mayday’, one of their first and most chaotic tracks; ‘Bangkok’, an early demo and 2015’s ‘Gunga Din’. From second self-titled album we are treated to ‘What Katie Did’ which provokes a very touching sing-along from everyone you can see, ‘Music When the Lights Go Out’ as well as ‘What Became of the Likely Lads’ which is just as potent and seething now as it was at the times, if not more so given the times we are living in. The one everyone is waiting for, ‘Can’t Stand Me Now’ is delivered with style, proving that despite the years that have passed, they still have it. We also get a cover of Babyshambles track ‘Albion’ before things are wrapped up with ‘Don’t Like Back Into The Sun’, which has everyone singing and dancing along so unabashedly you don’t want it to end, alas, all good things do.
The prevailing air of nostalgia makes up for the lack of stage mayhem which made them renowned first time round and everyone graciously accepts they are no longer the young lads who facilitated that, instead they are still talented musicians who have nothing to prove, yet have done so anyway.