20 years on from their iconic debut album, ‘Up the Bracket’, The Libertines returned to Manchester to do it all again, and they did not disappoint. One of the great British bands of their generation, the Libertines have stood the test of time and tonight gave a new vintage of music fans a taste of what came before.

The evening began with Sports Team, who were energetic and infectious as always. The indie misfits of the last few years are continuing their march forwards, with this being a clear indication of their rising stock. Frontman Alex Rice, who brought his trademark antics throughout the set, repeatedly confessed what a huge moment this was for them, supporting a band as iconic as the Libertines. 

The group wheeled out “all the hits” as they put it, which included a mixture of their first album, fan favourite early singles and a few from their upcoming album, ‘Gulp’. Clearly well versed in getting a crowd up to speed, the set was punctuated by a couple of standout moments alongside their lively tunes; the constant presence of one Pete Doherty, nonchalantly observing the whole set from the side of the stage, adorned with his grey dressing gown, and Alex Rice throwing his coat into the crowd, asking for it back after a change of weather and eventually settling for someone’s vape instead… an amusing exchange.  As they headed to the end of the set, two particular favourites stood out, the Jolyon Thomas produced ‘M5’, brought the raucous energy from both the band and the crowd, something that has always typified a Sports Team show, and the closing number, which was the very first track they ever released, ‘Stanton’, seeing the crowd become invigorated at the idea of being bought ‘a flip screen motorola’. A top performance from a band that continues to impress – definitely worth catching them at Manchester Academy when they return in October.

Then came the main event, Pete, Carl, Gary and John emerged to celebrate their great breakthrough album at the Castlefield Bowl. By this point, Pete had moved on from his earlier look, punctuated by the grey dressing gown and was now united with his iconic hat and smarter ensemble, Carl had a striking leather jacket, emblazoned with a bold Scorpion, John looked sharp as ever in a black suit & Gary, arguably the standout, wore a bold, lime green tracksuit. 

They went straight in, playing ‘Up the Bracket’ all the way through, naturally commencing with ‘Vertigo’, a powerful start that immediately shifted the mood, causing chaos in the crowd as the packed audience abandoned all inhibitions and threw themselves into the evening – the tone was absolutely set. As we moved through the set, we landed on ‘Time for Heroes’, and anarchy ensued, a fan favourite for sure, and many of the crowd we dead set on expressing their enjoyment; at one point a particularly excited member of the audience gripped me by the hair to fully convey her excitement – direct, but the message was definitely received! It was followed immediately by a personal favourite of mine, and judging by the atmosphere, most of the other fans, ‘Boys in the Band’. A fervour gripped the audience and the band matched their energy twofold, making for a powerful few minutes of pure jubilation for all involved. 

‘Radio America’ took us down a notch, giving everyone a moment of slightly calmer reflection, and probably a much needed break, especially with what was to follow. The title track from this seminal album was a highlight of the night, ‘Up the Bracket’ was performed with the same feeling they’ve always given to it, a real marker that the band are still as good as they were 20 years ago, just slightly more experienced now. They continued to plough through the rest of the album, finishing on ‘I Get Along’, which felt like a really important shared moment of celebration for an album that will have been a hugely important part of many of the audiences’ formative years.  

A quick break followed the end of the album, but they soon reemerged and then commenced with what many would deem the rest of the classics. ‘Mayday’ opened the second half of the set, quickly bringing the audience back up to speed, ‘Gunga Din’ followed, and then the most poignant moment of the night, ‘You’re my Waterloo’ came next. Carl sat down at the piano as Pete serenaded the audience with one of the band’s more emotional tracks, a true moment of reflection, in what was otherwise a raucous evening delivered at full pelt. A beautiful few minutes, a classic Libertines anthem, that brought a clear shift in the feeling amongst the audience, as everyone came together to embrace the song for exactly what it is. 

After that, the home stretch was very much normal service resumed. Iconic tunes like ‘What Katie Did’, ‘What Became of the Likely Lads’ & ‘Music When the Lights Go Out’, gave the fans another chance to jump around, but none more so than what has to be one of the best closing pairs there are, ‘Can’t Stand Me Now’ & ‘Don’t Look Back into the Sun’. The former, one of the best rock tunes to come out of Britain during the 2000s, and the latter, a superb closing number, fit for a band of the highest order. 

One of the very best to do it – essential is the only way to describe them; many have tried to reach their heights, almost all have failed, but they are well and truly still on the top of their game.