Carl Barat’s post-Libertines career has been erratic to say the least. He experienced moderate success with Dirty Pretty Things first album in 2005, the group he formed with ex-Libertines drummer Gary Powell after the band’s split the year before. Unfortunately their time was short-lived after their second and final LP bombed in 2008, leading ultimately to the group’s split the same year. Since then, Barat has reunited with his former co-frontman Pete Doherty for Reading and Leeds in 2010, and a massive one-off gig in Hyde Park earlier this year, followed by dates at London’s Alexandra Palace. His new venture Carl Barat and The Jackals are out on tour in support of his new album ‘Let it Reign’, but will this new incarnation be a triumph, or just a case of history repeating itself?
Barat and The Jackals open with new tracks ‘Victory Gin’ and ‘A Storm is Coming’; both fast paced 3 minute bursts of classic Barat sound. The appreciative audience is slow to start, but the energy in the room soon begins to flow as they drop Dirty Pretty Things song ‘Gin and Milk’ into the mix. The set is interspersed with old songs, both from The Libertines and Dirty Pretty Things, and while Barat doesn’t seem reluctant to play them, he is almost apologetic in his attitude to his past hits (perhaps more for the sake of his new backing band than the audience). New songs are introduced with a grunt of “this is another new one” rather than by their titles. He seems grateful for the success his past singles have afforded, but also ready to distance himself from them with The Jackals.
Libetines classic ‘Death on the stairs’ sounds just as good in this modest venue as it did at Hyde Park, although its slightly heartbreaking hearing Carl sing both his and Pete’s vocal parts. Without the shambles of Doherty, Barat’s music is slightly lacking in that rebel spirit, although he has perfected playing the role of charming rock and roll frontman over the years. Toward the end of the set Barat treats the crowd to a solo acoustic performance of another new track and ‘France’. It’s an intimate moment for the loyal fans who have attended tonight’s gig, and a victory for Barat’s captivating stage presence. The band re-join Carl for a rousing rendition of ‘Bang Bang You’re Dead’; a song which is tired at best but still a fan favourite if the reaction is anything to go by.
Some of the new songs do let Carl down, and unfortunately for some reason they have been chosen as lead single and album namesake respectively. ‘Glory Days’ is a dated, watered-down Libertines cover which sounds like it would be bellowed by nationalist hooligans after a few pints down the pub. Likewise ‘Let it Reign’ is riddled with over the top clichés and sounds so cheesy at times it is painful to listen to. They close the set with ‘War of The Roses’ and fortunately redeem themselves as it is a fantastic track and a reminder of what Barat can be capable of writing. The encore of ‘The Gears’ and ‘I Get Along’ goes down a storm, and perhaps indicating again that Barat’s song writing is at its best when he keeps things short and snappy.
It’s a great evening for fans hoping for a mixture of songs old and new, and there is no doubt that Barat’s voice and musical talent have not faded over the last few years. Hopefully once The Jackals release their debut album he will rely less on older tracks as a crutch and have more faith in his new offerings.