Libertines review, Glastonbury 2022: For one captivating moment, it feels like the Noughties are back

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 (PA)
(PA)

How the tables turn. Once, The Libertines kept the crowds waiting and played as though they could fall apart at any moment. Today – thanks to an 11.30am set that marks the de facto start of Glastonbury – it’s their fans who are rolling in late, bug-eyed and dishevelled.

All the attention is on frontman Pete Doherty. He was at one point the most important rock star in Britain, both ridiculously famous and incredibly influential, spawning an entire scene of lesser imitators. He was relentlessly pursued across London by paparazzi. These days, he lives a quieter life in France with his wife, Katia De Vidas. With his flat cap and moustache, he actually bears a passing resemblance to Pascal, the prickly French husband of Noughties “I’m too beautiful” Daily Mail columnist, Samantha Brick.

There is a touch of Phoenix Nights to this so-called indie sleaze revival – the nostalgic movement kick-started during lockdown by an Instagram account dedicated to reviving the memories of the 2000s indie scene. Last month at Primavera Sound in Barcelona, we glimpsed it in The Strokes’ Julian Casablancas – a little older but no less sharp onstage. Today, Barat and Doherty are on fine form as they turn in every hit from their back catalogue.

They open with “Up the bracket”. As they face off and sing together into the mic, for a brief moment there is the captivating sense that nothing has changed after all. There’s an early singalong in “What Katie Did”. “You’re a sweet, sweet girl,” sings the crowd, “but it’s a cruel world.” Barat belts it out in a Scorpion jacket that channels Ryan Gosling in Drive. Doherty, meanwhile, has donned a tunic and rosary, and bops around onstage like Friar Tuck. In a playful mood, he reads out what he describes as “a special message from Michael Eavis... ‘get off my land’”.

The pace picks up as we head into the juddering “Boys In the Band”. Then it’s “Can’t Stand Me Now”, which really gets the crowd vibrating like it’s actually 11.30pm. A sea of bucket hats bobbles away as sunlight breaks over the Other Stage. Doherty hurls his harmonica into the crowd. “I’ll confess all of my sins,” he sings, his rosary swaying, on “Music When The Lights Go Out”.

As the band shift into “What Became of the Likely Lads”, Doherty puts his hood up, looking more and more like a member of a religious order. “See I forgive you in a song,” he sings to Barat. Midway through “The Good Old Days”, he starts chanting “Volodymyr Zelenskyy”, the name of the Ukrainian President, to the tune of “Seven Nation Army”. Then it’s the double whammy of “Time For Heroes” and Don’t Look Bakx into the Sun” to close.

They aren’t perfect. What’s missing is the propulsive chaos of their past selves – the sense that the whole stage could come crashing down at any moment. But they don’t have to be, and Doherty’s recent retreat from the spotlight only adds to the Libertines mythology. A Super Hans flag flies above the Other stage. A man in a red military jacket fades into the crowd. The Noughties are back.