I would have cried if I hadn’t already dehydrated my body from sweat. I left the Libertines secret gig in High Gate’s The Boogaloo remembering why I live in a city that swallows rent money in carnivorous greed.
It started with the whispering.
Rumours, rants and the radical notion that ‘the Libs’ were hitting London town that very night. Twitter lit up with question marks and euphoria.
‘What? When? Where?’ I texted my friend this, half spitting out the dinner I was eating. ‘You can’t be serious!’ But there was nothing more solemn than her wish for me to see the band she was too many miles away to watch. So, shoving on glitter, I ran for the tube and took the northern line straight up to Arcadia.
I got to the Boogaloo just in time to scream ‘Ketamine’ during Jack Jones’ notorious poem, to grab a rum and coke, and then to cram my body into a space where I could read every letter tattooed on the arms of Camden’s finest.
It’s always difficult to stare into Peter’s bush-baby eyes and remember to breathe, but I somehow managed to inhale oxygen as the Libertines launched into ‘Gunga Din’ – gritty riffs and a sense of home. The synergy of the band, accompanied by the violinist Miki Beavis, caused a tribal dance of chaos.
If God was recording the gig (why wouldn’t he) and one of his satanic angels pressed pause, you’d see this:
A tableau of hard-core Libertine fans wide eyed, arms in the air, mouths stretched open in the release of beloved lyrics. A vein popping on the forehead of a security guy earning his stripes and a thousand bruises through restraining the crowd from devouring their heroes. A spray of beer, frozen, before baptising the mosh pit with ethanol heartache. Peter and Carl, stretching their necks toward one microphone, ready to remind life that their musical brotherhood is as tight as ever. Through all this post-punk glamour, a poster of Elvis, coolly surveying the madness with a lip-curl of understanding.
‘Can’t Stand Me Now’ and ‘Don’t Look Back into the Sun’ inspired mosh-pits so frenetic that Carl was propelled backwards into the drum-kit, while sweeter ballads, such as ‘You’re My Waterloo’, left the audience swaying at the romantic mystique of the Libertines’ wordsmiths. In the brief moment it took Carl to swig a pint of Guinness, Pete leapt into a cover of ‘Twist and Shout’, causing the entire crowd to morph into Ferris Bueller.
Tops off, hats on. The Libertines rollicked through tune after tune as comfortably passionate as the backstage moments where they roll up a cigarette and prepare to give fans a legendary night.
Exhausted but exalted. I wouldn’t want to feel any other way. I watched as the last bit of Gary Powell’s leg disappeared over the bar before I tumbled out and sank into fresh air. Life is expensive and tough, red buses and cheap noodles, which is why bands like the Libertines are needed to lift your spirit up from the pavement, because remember: ‘if you’ve lost your faith in love and music, the end won’t be long’.