Meltdown Festival is twenty-five this year and to celebrate its silver anniversary it is down to the one and only Robert Smith, of The Cure, to curate this year's event. Smith has hand picked this year's guests for his real-life fantasy festival and sent a hand written letter to each of the acts to invite them to perform. One such letter found its way to The Libertines and they duly responded positively, accepting Robert's request to play in the sixty-six-year-old modernist masterpiece that is The Royal Festival Hall.
Before the boys in the band took to the stage, it was the turn of the excitable and exuberant Brighton based band Yonaka to tread the prestigious boards. During their lively set, potty-mouthed Theresa Jarvis strutted her stuff with a lead singer's swagger as she enthusiastically belted out tunes from the band's nine track set. Starting out with an electrifying take on 'Teach Me To Fight', then an intense 'Run', and finally closing out the animated and highly spirited setlist with 'Rockstar' and an impassioned 'F**k With The Boss.'
The Libertines took their time to follow Yonaka and wandered onto the stage as they do with their calm and nonchalant demeanour. "Are we all ready?" Pete asked of the band before striking the first notes of 'The Delaney'. A fired-up version of 'Heart Of The Matter', impassioned 'Boys In The Band' and meandering 'What Katie Did' were all early set highlights as the band got into their stride. Pete lost his trench coat and shortly after shed his jacket too as the night heated up and the crowd got behind the band with a great deal of enthusiasm.
The slower ballad, taken from their last album 'Anthems For Doomed Youth', 'You're My Waterloo' provided one of the evening's high points as both Carl's piano and then guitar solo stole the limelight for an emotive performance. 'Gunga Din' and a pumped up 'Can't Stand Me Now' followed before Pete took time out for a few words of appreciation. Firstly, he thanked Mr Smith for inviting the band, and for the fruit bowl in their room, but also for Gary who'd "gone arse over tit in the shower and broken his wrist" but was still soldiering on and playing the drums as if his life depended on it. There was certainly no quarter given in terms of his performance on the night.
An incendiary 'The Boy Looked At Johnny', complete with a fantastically sequenced light set, saw the band really hit a purple patch in the gig, with 'Death On The Stairs' and 'Vertigo' heading up possibly the most poignant moment of the evening as The Libertines delivered a great cover of The Cure's 'Boys Don't Cry'. The wave of appreciation and joy that just that one song managed to impart were incredible to experience and made the gig just that little bit more special. A blistering 'Up The Bracket' and intense performance of 'What A Waster' closed out the set pre-encore with the band exiting stage right with barely a nod to the crowd.
With energy levels partially restored, the band returned for a four-song encore to the delight of the two and half thousand crowd. Drummer Gary and his broken wrist couldn't resist a spirited drum solo and the band couldn't resist a few more crowd pleasers that included 'Horror Show' and sing-a-long favourite 'Don't Look Back Into The Sun'. Carl, and particularly Pete, looked a little jaded at times but they still put on a great show. Pete's voice was in good form, as was his harmonica, and Carl's guitar and piano were standout moments from the gig. An inspired choice by Mr Smith from an inspirational, if somewhat dysfunctional, band who are undoubtedly still great live.
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