It feels strange, seeing the Libertines moving into arena shows.
The Libertines | Hydro, Glasgow | Rating ***
Always dependably off the rails in their early days, more than a decade ago now, they were the kind of performers whose packed, sweaty club shows would be unmissable for all manner of reasons – one of them, sadly, uncomfortable voyeurism where Pete Doherty was concerned. Yet now here they are in an arena, with a massive lighting rig, their name hanging before a jumbo video screen, and a cavernous space to fill. It’s an unfamiliar setting in which to see the quartet, but it confirms their inclusion into the pantheon of UK heritage music acts.
In recent years everything and nothing has changed for the Libertines, their reformation after nearly a decade apart coming about because Pete Doherty managed to clean up his drug habits enough for Carl Barat to be able to work with him again. They make a natural pairing, both physically – Doherty in black suit and bowler hat, Barat in leather jacket and Stetson – and vocally. Their best tracks played here were the classics, of course; simple pop songs with serrated guitar lines like Can’t Stand Me Now, Time for Heroes and Don’t Look Back Into the Sun.
With odd interjections from two female ushers serving the band refreshments (“I asked for a ginger!” yelped Doherty, playing to the Glasgow crowd), the rest of the set worked best amidst the more reflective material from last year’s comeback album Anthem For Doomed Youth, including the wistful title track and the tender piano intro of You’re My Waterloo. Yet often the lesser parts of their catalogue struggled to make the step up to the scale of their newfound reality.