Libertines at O2 Academy, Sheffield

The Libertines Likely Lads stir up a right old Yorkshire Ding Dong

Photos John Hayhurst

Words Mike Oglesby

Sheffield welcomed the Libertines on their rescheduled long-awaited tour, and it was well worth the wait.

Pete Doherty and Carl Barat were at their imperious best tonight. This was a confident grown-up set of likely lads who strutted the stage, yes, they are a little portlier than ever before (Pete) but they still had a cheeky glint in their eye and a story to tell. Barat definitely looking the cooler of the two in his trademark leather jacket, Doherty in a red T-Shirt and flat cap, was that a nod to Yorkshire?. The “Yorkshire…Yorkshire” chants in full flow as they took to the stage.

It was a packed house which buzzed with anticipation, fully warmed up by the energetic support from The Dead Freights, a band from Southampton with more oomph than most, a frontman – Charlie James who comes across like Jarvis Cocker on E’s and Whizz, backed by some rocking guitar, bass and drums. Was it Math Rock, Brit Indie or just old school Rock ‘n’ Roll, I’m not sure, but I liked it. They even have a song about Batman, although that’s not the caped crusader you’re thinking of.

So the scene was set, lights, action (& cameras) and off we dived into a full ‘shackles off’ performance that started with the classic What a Waster from their Up the Bracket album (2002) which the crowd loved.

Beer was at a premium price £6+ a pint, so as we were in Yorkshire not much was thrown in anger and even less spilt. (The toilets however were a full rock n roll swamp by 10pm)

The audience reflected the energy back from the stage, the band cleverly spacing the slower more heartfelt songs with the faster singalongs. Some, like this reviewer, were new Libertines fans, seeing them for the first time having listened to their back catalogue on Spotify during lockdown and wondering what all the fuss is about, others clearly die hard fans re-igniting their passion and memories of yesteryear.

The band continued their set with The Ha Ha Wall, Up the Bracket and Gunga Din. The Lads maybe older and wiser and a bit greyer, but the chemistry between Doherty and Barat was still evident and their friendship which has gone through some trials and tribulations in the past, still shines through.

The crowd were by now warming up nicely and were glad to be back seeing live music after all the Covid 19 restrictions over the past two years. There seemed to be a collective will to enjoy the performance.

The band thrashed out more of the old favourites The Saga, What Katie Did, You’re My Waterloo, Boys in the Band and Can’t Stand Me Now. The audience loved the tempo changes, Gary Powell’s little drum solos, and were singing along throughout on each others shoulders.

They closed the first section with What Became of the Likely Lads and answered their own question by showing everyone a throwback to the early 2000’s, Doherty’s cap went flying into the crowd and whilst the shirts weren’t off, thankfully (apart from Powell), the sweat was pouring like the good old days.

All differences seemed to be behind them, and it was great to see front man Doherty doing so well after his well-documented difficulties in the past. His happy state was clear for all to see, and the Boys in the Band were back at their almost best. It felt like a seminal moment when all the good times and bad times were brought full circle but their friendship shone through.

After a pause they returned on stage to a rapturous welcome and played a five song encore, it really was a time for heroes and a greatest hits set. They pushed out The Delaney, Fame and Fortune, Death on the Stairs, Don’t Look Back Into The Sun and the aforementioned Time for Heroes.

I left happy, the songs still ringing in my head, laughing and joking and fully entertained by a brilliant return to form for this band, if you can – catch them on these run of rescheduled dates, but I’m sure they will be back soon anyway for festival season.

Setlist:

What a Waster

The Ha Ha Wall

Up the Bracket

Gunga Din

The Saga

What Katie Did

You’re My Waterloo

Boys in the Band

Can’t Stand Me Now

The Boy Looked at Johnny

Begging

Music When the Lights Go Out

Horror Show

Heart of the Matter

What Became of the Likely Lads

The Good Old Days

Encore:

The Delaney

Fame and Fortune

Death on the Stairs

Don’t Look Back Into The Sun

Time for Heroes 

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Philip Goddard

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