If this were a London show the NME would be telling you it was a life changing experience. New Yorkers just take it in stride. Is that a good thing? Sometimes you have to just get excited about a show and last night the Libertines were that band. Some have said they are the UK's answer to the Strokes, I say not. Where Julian and Co. have a claustrophobic stage presence and catatonic drug-eyed stare, Carl Barat and Co. are continuing in a more Clash-meets-Stones circa '70 vibe. [Mick Jones from the Clash produced their two records] Even with ex-stage partner Pete Doherty in drug exile, the band still rocks. Completely. Carl may be the ad-hoc frontman but it is bassist John Hassal and drummer Gary Powell that really give the show its' finishing touches. Hassal, the straight man foil and perfect backing vocalist, and Powell, a menace on drums, are the true backbone for Barat. Pete's replacement, Yank Anthony Rossamondo is doing his best musically but could use a little help with his footwork. Some say Fred Flintstone-as-Rock Roll in "Bedrock Twitch" comes to mind.
But I digress. It's about the tunes and the Libertines have more than you think. One after the other. "Up the Bracket", "Don't Look Back Into the Sun", "Boys In the Band", "Last Post On The Bugle" and "Can't Stand Me Now" are vicious live songs that put the Libertines in a league all their own. Influenced but fresh, a nod to the past but oh-so-of-the-moment. Maybe Mick Jones showed them some tricks while in the studio. The solid set even had some rare songs in b-sides "The Delaney" and "Mayday". The sold out Webster Hall crowd was well up for it and the encore was the pay-off. "What A Waster", "What Became Of the Likely Lads" and "I Get Along" were unleashed in a fury, an impromptu mosh broke out, and as quickly as it started, a now shirtless Barat and his boys were off. Pete who?
As CMJ gets its music conference rolling today, would it be melodramatic to say the highlight was over before it even began. Some say yes. But a few free beers and some open bars later, who knows?