Second on the bill but you try telling the front of a swelled crowd that Arcade Fire were headlining the Main Stage. Friday was The Libertines' night in all but title as the much publicised reunion finally happened. Much talk beforehand of seven digit figures bandied about but for two generations only one thing mattered; the sight of Pete Doherty and Carl Barat on the same stage again at last. Six years had passed which meant a new chapter to be written in the arcadian tale of the quartet. For old fans; the chance of closure and for new fans; a welcome rebirth. Either way, this had been a long time coming.
Of course, they were always going to milk the moment for all its worth and not until Vera Lynn's 'We'll Meet Again' echoed around the site to a nostalgic photo montage of the good ol' days did the crowd actually believe. Yet, given the time elapsed it seemed strangely natural when they finally walked onstage. Even Doherty sounded relatively sober during the rambunctious opener 'Horrorshow'. Grey hairs may appear on his temple but the fervour remained. All back on the good ship Albion then for 'The Delaney' and 'Vertigo' which saw Doherty and Barat endearingly share a microphone.
Perhaps the excitement was too much for a few as the show was paused for safety concerns down at the front, which allowed drummer Gary Powell to keep the crowd upbeat and graciously soak belated, good natured applause. The sentiment seemed not for the actual show, but that they showed up with the likes of 'Last Post On The Bugle' and 'Tell The King' given rushed renditions. Granted, a tribute band would perform a worthy enough effort but try telling that to the kid staring at Doherty under the huge 'Up The Bracket' banner.
Despite only a few rehearsal sessions 'Boys In The Band' sounded invigorated whilst the slow serenade of 'Music When The Lights Go Out' was equally impressive. The band have always courted controversy but you could forgive Barat for balancing a lit cigarette amidst playfully delivered vocals during 'What Katie Did'. Of course, 'What Became Of The Likely Lads' managed to carry the weight of the occasion; its poignancy tempered with a painful romanticism as Doherty glanced longingly at Barat.
Put bluntly, this was far from a polished performance but The Libertines never strove for note-perfection. Given the butchered intro to 'Can't Stand Me Now', the effect was merely charming in the circumstances complete with Doherty's half-assed harmonica solo. The allure remained in the ramshackle nature of 'The Ha Ha Wall', a chuddering rendition of 'Don't Look Back Into The Sun' then a raw and vigorous 'Time For Heroes'.
Their encore could not have been more fitting. For those who have stuck by the quartet, they were rewarded with the two tracks they would have fallen for all those years ago. 'What A Waster' still sounded as fresh and fractious as it did on their first release as it tumbled into 'I Get Along'. Back to the good ol' days indeed.