THE ANTICIPATION that rose like a tsunami when the Libertines announced the Hyde Park gig crashed in a sea of likely lads and lasses on a night where little else went right. Pete, Carl, John and Gary smashed their set into a bloody pulp, ripping through a hit-laden hour and a half that drove a huge crowd wild.
The prior hours had been a litany of management errors and technical malfunctions that threatened to drag the day down. Thousands packed into the arena, and by mid-afternoon a claustrophobic feel had settled. There was barely space to sit to smoke and talk, and the mass pushing to get into the Barclaycard theatre stage was reaching dangerous levels. The ludicrous decision to create a cramped, indoor stage housing many popular acts was backfiring spectacularly. Eventually the problem was ‘solved’ by the stage malfunctioning and then closing, denying punters the chance to see Reverend and the Makers, Swim Deep and Graham Coxon. Elsewhere, any spare wall had become a urinal for presses of men.
The sodden ground summed up the appearance of Pogues lead singer Shane McGowan on the Main stage. Seemingly always on the verge of keeling over, he frequently nipped off stage for a fag, puffing clammily as the first of the giant crushes at the front caused the music to be stopped. To be fair, he and his band delivered a good performance which finally saw the crowd dancing, something the Enemy and Maximo Park had failed to do. Spiritualized were on next and their ethereal sound was always going to struggle against a crowd clearly waiting for the big event.
As the famous four entered the stage, the roar that went up washed away the annoyance at not seeing Swim Deep. Within two songs, the euphoria that greeted every move Pete and Carl made you forget that the music was way too quiet. It simply made you sing even louder. Hyde Park continued its best efforts to hinder the music, with further crowd crushes causing two delays. Each hindrance only seemed to encourage both crowd and band in a joint effort to conquer every obstacle. The communal spirit that suddenly grew in a crowd that had previously been made up of lad crews and achingly pretentious hipsters was a revelation and the Libertines shone in response.
For a crowd that had grown up listening but rarely been given a chance to see, every song was a favourite. ‘Don’t Look Back Into the Sun’, ‘What Katie Did’, ‘Death on the Stairs’, ‘What a Waster’. They played them all. To stand and sing with god knows how many other drunk fans was incredible, the atmosphere electric. A greying and slightly podgy Doherty rolled back the years, sharing a microphone with Carl and, at the end, reciting poetry. Hyde Park, you were shit. The Libertines though, they’re still kings. Even now there’s something to be proud about.