The Libertines - A film by Roger Sargent from The Libertines on Vimeo.
All four of the classic Libertines line-up were expected to show for the premiere of the documentary in London last night, but Pete Doherty didn't show, dashing once again hopes for a lasting reunion.
Hopes were raised, of course, last summer, when the band played triumphant sets at the Reading and Leeds festivals in the UK:
"These are The Good Old Days...."
"Oh! What became of the Likely Lads?
What became of the dreams we had?
What became of Forever?"
At the two festivals, and at some warm-up gigs, the band played tight versions of their classics, to the sing-along delight of their largest audiences ever. Seemed like the two principles, singer/songwriter/guitarists Pete Doherty and Carl Barat had buried the hatchet (they careened over the years from "get-a-room" bromance to Doherty going to jail for burgling Barat's apartment).
Carl wrote a book (so-so) and released a solo album (pretty good, especially the single "Run With The Boys" and "The Irony of Love").
But their fans hungered for more "greatest hits" reunion gigs and prayed for some new earth-shattering songs as well. A few months ago, Carl announced that since they hadn't written any songs, they wouldn't be playing any summer festivals in 2011.
Their old friend, photographer/filmmaker Roger Sargent, produced the documentary There Are No Innocent Bystanders, with lots of footage of the 2010 reunion shows and the lead-up to them. All four members of the classic line-up - Pete and Carl, bassist John Hassall and drummer Gary Powell were allegedly going to show up for the premiere, but Pete didn't show, leading to speculation that he and Carl are on the outs (again).
Pete has been doing solo stuff and appearing in court nearly as often as on the stage (sadly, he may have to go back to jail again).
Seeing Pete solo or in The Babyshambles is better than nothing, but there is something special about him and Carlos together. Part of it is people hungering for early 2000s nostalgia (already?) but those are some great songs (anthemic sing alongs - listen to the ecstasy, the sheer joy in the Reading sing-alongs - when was the last time you heard anything like that?), and we know that any new stuff they'd write together would also be awesome.
Besides the precarious relationship between Pete and Carl, and Pete's problems with drugs and the law, there is the sad fact that The Libertines never really took off in America, partially because Pete hasn't been able to get an American visa for some time because of his multiple drug arrests in the UK (i believe he was arrested 3 times in 2 days once when i was in england.... gleefully reported in the UK gutter press - Kate Moss degenerate rocker boyfriend in another drugs bust! - the cops - and reporters - just kept following him around from house to dope spot to bust to return to dope spot (since the cops took his other dope), rinse repeat...)
Pete reportedly flew to JFK for a one-off gig with Sean Lennon in Summer 2010 and was turned away at the airport....
I mean, The Libertines don't need America... in some ways, their music and subject matter is so quintessentially English (not quite as bad as Pete's heroes Chas & Dave, who definitely are too British for America, sorry guys...)... but on the other hand, having 300 million more potential fans doesn't hurt.... and.... needless to say.... several British bands have done quite well in America in terms of both record sales and touring... (i was a little surprised too, when reading about the origins of The Libertines, how affected they were by American bands like The White Stripes and The Strokes and how many credit the American garage revival with inspiring bands like The Libertines... although you'd think they'd have enough inspiration left over from British bands from back in the day like The Clash and The Buzzcocks....)
But that's not too important. Wanting The Libertines to be successful in America is mostly about me wishing more of my fellow Americans would "get it" and also about saving me a trip to the UK just to see a reunited Libertines show.
It seems like more reunion gigs are inevitable - the hunger in the UK, not to mention Europe, Asia, and Oceania, is strong. It all comes down to Pete's health and the relationship between Carl and Pete.
But last night's no-show by Pete doesn't bode well for the process.