Report by Alice:
He was nervous. He’d said it enough and so one had to believe him. We were cold and tired. We’d spent bloody ages waiting out in the cold to get into Popscene in San Fransisco… nearly as long as one might wait in the dingy Commercial Road for admittance to the ‘126’ Club, but in this instance it was simply that we all had hoped that the 9pm on the e-ticket meant that was when the bands would come on, not when they would decide to let us in. A little place, long and narrow, probably with a capacity of about 400, we positioned ourselves near the front for another long wait. Very reminiscent of the Rhythm Factory, where we might have been had we not made the daft decision to be in California instead. But less scuzzy, this being the back streets of San Fransisco rather than Whitechapel. An exchange of texts with friends in London brought the sudden awareness that the gig in London would be long over… we’re 8 hours behind here, so whilst we were fidgeting at 8pm, our RF bound comrades would be well tucked in bed at 4am.
Finally, about half ten, Carl emerged onto the little stage. People cheered, and a small group of hardcore fans hooted a welcome. ‘I’m not really on tour,’ he said, ‘just hanging about with some mates for a laugh.’ And then he played the opening chords of ‘What a Waster’. If Carl himself had doubted his ability to carry a solo slot, none of us did, and by the end of the set, hopefully, he was convinced too. It was bloody wonderful. He chatted and apologised, and showed us his set list scribbled on the back of a phone bill envelope. He confessed later that he’d ‘forgotten’ to practise. But the informality of it rather added to the atmosphere, in my opinion. He fumbled the guitar on ‘Man Who Would be King’ and shuffled some of the lyrics of ‘Time for Heroes’ but the set was an unadulterated delight… hearing a collection of songs, mostly drawn from the Libertines era played as they should be, and sung beautifully. ‘You’ll have to indulge me,’ he said, ‘I really like playing the Libertines songs, so here’s another’. He’d said this before, towards the end of the DPT run when the band added in ‘I Get Along’ to the repetoire. And last night it was evident… and completely fitting, that Carl should finally be able to reclaim some of that marvellous material and make it his own.
He’s played a few things in the past year or so… three songs in Twickenham in April, two with Drew McConnell at the Carnival aftershow also in April, a short solo set at Glastonbury, and most recently, two songs with Kyle Falconer and Drew McConnell at the Boston Arms. But unlike any of those shows, including Glastonbury, when he was accompanied by Kieran Leonard and Billy Bragg, last night he was really on his own, and he did himself proud. He played (to the best of my memory), What a Waster, Man Who Would be King, France, BURMA, Doctors and Dealers, Deadwood, Ballad of Grimaldi, Music When the Lights Go Out and Time for Heroes. Ballad of Grimaldi was the highlight for me, a personal favourite anyway, and the only one of the lot that I’d never heard him play before. The crowd were a bit funny, seemingly more familiar with Deadwood than TfH, and rather subdued (aside from the small cheering committee around us), but none of that mattered, really. It’s been a long time coming, and I’m so very glad he’s done it. And if his chirpy mood afterwards is anything to go by, so was he. Roll on Seattle tomorrow.