The Libertines at The Arc, Stockton

Tuesday is not normally a night I would venture out to a gig, to make matters even more out of the norm, its a cold and windy night in January.  But when The Libertines announce they are going on tour and it turns out that they are playing in Stockton-On-Tees well you could have blown me down with a feather, The Arc is the place in the North East that has been chosen as one of the intimate club venues to host The Albionay Tour, bringing the live experience of the new album ‘All Quiet On The Eastern Esplanade’ to what you would could be describe as the hardcore fans, the people who have arrived to pack this venue, to sell it out no less.

Three bands for 30 quid, now thats not a bad deal.  First support of the night is Bear Park, a Newcastle based trio and make no bones of letting the audience know this, their music is melodic with a tinge of edginess to it in parts and it goes down well with the few that actually made the effort to attend their performance, so many found it hard to tear themselves away from the bar or left it late due to the bad weather, it funny how some bands have a following that don’t really feel the need to give support bands their due, is that just myself being a little cynical, or do some “music fans” just look past the headline acts, either way Bear Park were still enjoyed by those who made it.

Next up came the shaft of perfect non music with a huge slab of social and political conscience, Benefits by all accounts were the band that Pete Doherty specifically requested for this gig, and its not a huge leap to understand why, the lyrical content does fit with what his calling has been through his musical career.  Even withstanding one comment I heard from a Libertines fan “If you did a band audition and this vocalist turned up, you wouldn’t really hire him would you?”, a set that had songs with titles like ‘Empire’, ‘War Horse’, ‘Flag’ and ‘Traitors’ that were screamed at you with all the ferocity they deserved could not go unnoticed even by the uninitiated, this is band that played possibly one of their best sets in a while to an audience of mostly new listeners, its definitely something they won’t forget for what ever the reason, and being talked about for standing and shouting how shit Britain is at the moment is never a bad thing.

To the main event and yes the reason 90% or more of this audience only came for, the resilient and never say die attitude of The Libertines is upon Stockton-on-Tees, the venue small but perfectly formed, and to be the one that kicks off the tour with a sold out in seconds audience, what more could you ask for.  Its plain to see that no matter what this and does tonight, the vast majority of the crowd will go home pleased tonight, the first song from the new album to appear is ‘Run Run Run’ and this is possibly the one song that conjures up times of old, the plastic beer glasses start flying and the punk like bouncing is in full effect.  Throughout the set its plain to see that this is a learning curve for this tour, a few missed cues and words between members aside, they pulled it off.  Songs like the new single ‘Shiver’ and ‘The Glorious Night of The Hunter’ (with its swan lake melody) have a step up in age and maturity about them, although lyrically they still stand with the trademark songs like ‘Time For Heroes’, ‘Whatever Happened To The Likely Lads’ and ‘Don’t Look Back Into The Sun’.

By the time the curtain came down on this possibly “once in a lifetime gig”as one fan commented, we were all pretty sure that things can only get better as this tour goes on, but on the other hand who actually cares about what seemed like stage rustiness and missed songs, this was and is what punk/indie music is about and should remain, rough around the edges but never forgotten.

Words and Photos by Mark Cartwright


Philip Goddard

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