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The Libertines review: Electric return to Stoke-On-Trent venue | Music | Entertainment

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In 2004, The Libertines secured legendary status in Stoke-on-Trent after a spontaneous secret show at The Underground led to a full-scale riot, road blocks, and a wall in the venue being pulled down. Carl Barat took the gig into the car park, Pete Doherty scaled the Babyshambles mini bus – then the police turned up.

In fact, the gig was so notorious that it’s pretty much the only thing mentioned on the venue’s Wikipedia page. That, and the time Pete played a solo show five years later. There’s even a tour poster from the time plastered on the wall of the club, flyers from more recent gigs partially cover it, but you can still make out the words ‘Pete Doherty is innocent’.

The 20 years since then have ushered the night into distant obscurity – but what became of the likely lads? Well, on Wednesday night, February 14, 2024 (Valentine’s Day), The Underground found out. The London rockers returned to the Hanley dive bar for an intimate gig promoting their upcoming fourth studio album: All Quiet on the Eastern Esplanade.

Support came in the form of Burton on Trent’s The 76 Club and four-piece indie outfit Stanleys, from Wigan – both of whom have been immediately added to my regular playlist.

The female-fronted five-piece, The 76 Club, are a relatively new band, formed in 2022 with just two singles under their Spotify belt – but it’s easy to see why they were selected to open. Ethereal guitar tones were met with punchy, bass-ridden choruses and Anna Milne’s gorgeous vocals, which make for an instantly likeable combination. With echoes of Wolf Alice and Stevie Nicks, this fresh outfit are certainly ones to watch as they gear up for further releases. Supporting The Libertines was quite the addition to their CV in such early days of their career – but it’s clearly been hard-earned. 

Manchester lads, Stanleys, followed; a group who have been making quite the name for themselves since their 2020 inception. The outfit have supported The Lathums’ sold-out show at O2 Victoria Warehouse, as well as sold out shows at O2 Ritz with Jamie Webster and The Lottery Winners, not to mention selling out their own Manchester headliner. It didn’t take long for them to win over a Midlands audience either (about 30 seconds into their opening track Look Back, actually). Their sound blended 60s guitar music with 90s Britpop while frontman Tom Concannon’s charismatic charm, stage presence and impressive vocal delivery certainly made them one of the most exciting bands emerging from the North West. Expect to see them on a festival stage near you very soon.

Tickets for The Libertines sold out in minutes. The venue was packed wall-to-wall as Pete stepped out holding up a Hanley Town Football Club scarf above his head, Carl Barat, bassist John Hassall and drummer Gary Powell close behind arriving to whoops and roars from the crowd.

Kicking off with the anthemic Up The Bracket, the audience were immediately catapulted back into the golden age of indie sleaze. Despite their well-documented turbulent friendship over the years, Pete and Carl seemed closer than ever with a brotherly bond as they joined each other to sing down the same microphone for tracks like Vertigo and What Became of the Likely Lads. 

Run, Run, Run – the first single released from the hotly anticipated new album – was as familiar to the crowd as those early numbers. Combining gritty guitar riffs with infectious melodies, it’s a raucous Libs record made for clubs just like The Underground, and although released decades later, still has the timeless appeal of those halcyon days of early 2000s indie rock.

As they delved into classics like Can’t Stand Me Now and What Katie Did, there was a real swell of nostalgia and the room was brimming with adoration for the band that had soundtracked the teenage years of those in attendance. Carl Barat swooned as he was passed a dozen red roses and a note from two female fans at the front – it was Valentine’s Day after all – and love really was in the air.

And while we could have easily stood reminiscing about the Good Old Days, it was the inclusion of newer tracks like Shiver and Mustangs from their forthcoming album that underscored the band’s evolution and proved they’ve still got it. It’s the first album since Pete declared himself clean of crack and heroin, and he looked much better for it. I’d been in the building ahead of doors opening where he’d been playing with his dog, Gladys on the dancefloor while The 76 Club soundchecked. Gone were the tumultuous days of addiction, and being unknowingly observed, there was a real contentment about him. 

Speaking of Gladys, the audience momentarily forgot what song The Libertines were playing as she made her way across the stage to her dad, stealing the limelight and accepting pets from the front row. Little rock and roller.

This week, thoroughly warmed up from their series of small shows, The Libertines announced a huge UK and Ireland tour in celebration of the new album, All Quiet on the Easter Esplanade, which is due for release on March 8.

The 16-date tour kicks off in September opening at Dublin’s 3Olympia Theatre on Monday 23, before heading to major UK cities like Birmingham, Bristol, Liverpool, and more, concluding at Manchester’s Albert Hall on November 7.

Tickets go on general sale this Friday, February 23, but fans who pre-order the new album here will be able to get pre-sale from 9am on Wednesday, February 21 via Ticketmaster.

The Libertines’ 2024 UK and Ireland tour dates

September

  • 23 – Dublin, 3Olympia Theatre
  • 24 – Belfast, The Telegraph Building

October

  • 3 – Birmingham, O2 Academy
  • 4 – Norwich, UEA
  • 5 – Cambridge, The Corn Exchange
  • 7 – Cardiff, Great Hall
  • 8 – Bristol, O2 Academy
  • 18 – Glasgow, Barrowland Ballroom
  • 19 – Liverpool, Mountford Hall
  • 21 – Nottingham, Rock City
  • 22 – Leeds, O2 Academy
  • 30 – London, Roundhouse
  • 31 – London, Roundhouse

November

  • 4 – Sheffield, The Octagon
  • 5 – Newcastle, NX
  • 7 – Manchester, Albert Hall



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