A Different Kind of Tension

The Libertines
The Opera House
October 15, 2004
With all the drama surrounding The Libertines, their exiled co-founder Pete Doherty and the demons of the remaining members, it has to be classified as nothing short of a miracle that they've actually managed to keep it together long enough to ride out their current North American tour. With their self-titled sophomore album beginning to make waves stateside, the blistering fervour of their live set could only help to bone up on the promotional efforts. This evening in Toronto was no exception.

Decked out in a leather jacket and oozing that unique brand of chipped beef attitude like only the British can, vocalist Carl Barat looked every bit the rock star but without Doherty playing yin to his yang, these Libertines lack the spark that made the former the most exciting UK indie act of the new century. Still, with a cannon of pissy garage punk nuggets and a lubricated mass riding on his every breath, Barat had the overstuffed Opera House crowd on its knees mere seconds into the performance. By the time the band launched into the opening salvo "Vertigo" from their landmark debut Up the Bracket, the mosh pit had already kicked into high gear as the band coasted through their back catalogue with a combination of half intensity, half reserve.

In Doherty's absence, drummer Gary Powell assumed the mantle of de facto eyepiece through his quick-witted fills and impressive pipes, skittering his way through such breakneck tunes as "Last Post On The Bugle" and "The Ha Ha Wall" without even ashing his fag. The crowd swayed and the band seemed to pick up momentum with each successive track. It helps that there are very few off-speed numbers in the band's repertoire and this meant that maintaining momentum from one song to the next was never as issue. Capping the set with their torrid debut single "What a Waster" didn't hurt either. I'm sure the poor sod who passed out in the pit during the track would agree.

For the encore, Barat returned to the stage shirtless and with his addled complexion gleaming in the houselights, he led the band through "Horrowshow", "The Narcissist", "What Became of the Likely Lads" and the volcanic straight-arm of "I Get Along". The Libertines might be down a man in their quest for fire but at least the troops have been briefed on how to slay a crowd through words and actions alone.

Writer: Cameron Gordon

Photo:Saira Mondey

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