HOLLY STEVENSON: ‘Carl Barat was playing Supernanny with us, treating us to a Libertines song, but only if we swallowed his new stuff without complaint.’
October 16th, The Haymakers, £14
After opening with the new single ‘Run With the Boys’, Barat immediately followed with ‘Je Regrette, Je Regrette’, another song from his recently released eponymous album. Both are listenable, even memorable. His staring, fiery blue eyes revealed either the his passionate belief in his own music or the volume of Johnny Walker he had consumed. The audience applauded as if they were at a tennis match.
So, when the riff from ‘The Man Who Would Be King’ wound its way over to us, it was if the venue was a tinderbox doused with petrol and Carl had just chucked in a match. The crowd surged forward, bound together in a primeval urge to drain every single drop they could from a Libertines song performed live. ‘So Long My Lover’ came like a cold shower. Everyone stood still, as if they were all in a mass game of musical statues.
A pattern emerged; two new songs, then something from the back catalogue. Barat was playing Supernanny with us, treating us with a Libertines song, but only if we swallowed his new stuff without complaint. Normally an artist can use the good vibes he gets from his established material to carry on a momentum through newer songs but Carl’s material has none of the energy and buzz of early Libertines or even the occasionally brilliant Dirty Pretty Things.
Barat is performing with an enormous albatross around his neck. To play exclusively solo material would have started a riot; yet the other option is to become a Libertines tribute band, playing the same old hits to please the indie purists stuck in 2003. Instead, he needed a new sound; to produce another Libertines sound-a-like would have equally mired him in the past. Even what was absent reminded us of what could have been. ‘Can’t Stand Me Now’ was noticeably absent, but then what is that song without Pete?
The stage invaders during ‘Don’t Look Back into the Sun’ were hoping for a time machine to return them to the halcyon days of Peter, Carlos and the Good Ship Albion. But, Barat has to live with the fact that he will never be that good again. And so do we.