The Libertines, Sleaford Mods, Reverend and The Makers - Motorpoint Arena, Nottingham - Gigs - Reviews - Soundblab

The Libertines, Sleaford Mods, Reverend and The Makers - Motorpoint Arena, Nottingham

by Lawrence Poole Rating:7 Release Date:

"What's the name please?" enquires the sweet, but flustered lady currently stationed but being overwhelmed at the guestlist window of the Nottingham venue’s box office. 

"Chris McClure – I’m Jon’s brother," comes the reply in a broad Sheffield accent, as if this extra information clarified matters for a women more used to dealing with the twin-setted fans of Andre Rieu and Cliff Richard.

It is significant, though. Almost 10 years to the day, the face of the unassuming man collecting guestlist tickets adorned arguably the greatest debut album of the decade, Arctic Monkeys’ Whatever You Say I am, That’s What I’m Not.

His brother, a former flatmate of Monkeys’ mainman Alex Turner, manly continues to plough a furrow, which has brought acclaim and an ardent cult following – clearly evident by the number of South Yorkshire drawls overheard entering the arena.

Blending a passion for rock, pop, ska, dub and electronic beats, quintet Reverend and the Makers released their fifth studio album, Mirrors, last October and on this evidence the towering McClure and co are showing no signs of easing off the pedals just yet.

Imploring the early arrivals to get stuck in from the get go, 'Open Your Window' from their 2007 debut, The State of Things, kicks proceedings in typically rabble-rousing style. While their latest long-player proffers the hypnotic 'Silence is Talking' with fabulous trumpet blasts from sassy brass player Laura McClure and The Beatles’ 'Tomorrow Never Knows' segue is clever. Elsewhere, lamenting ballad, 'Making Babies', with it’s contemplative refrain ‘everyone is making babies – what about us?’, shows the band’s more tender side. 

It’s easy to see why the promoters plumped to push Sleaford Mods’ angst-ridden social commentary up the bill as the second act on, their star continues to rise exponentially and with a long-association with the town itself, it made sense.

Sadly, with a crowd largely populated with under 30-somethings, many of which who used the half-an-hour set to hit the bar and/or the toilets – perhaps they would have been better opening the show. It mattered not a jot mind, grizzled frontman Jason Williamson and beats master Andrew Fearn have played a lot tougher gigs than this and managed wilfully.

Arabia’ and ‘Tied Up in Nottz’ practically squelch in the spit and vitriol belted out by Williamson as Fearn looks on nonchalantly as if waiting for a friend to return to the dancefloor from a night club bar. After the becapped Fearn had dismantled their stage show (closed his laptop), it was time to see if the Good Ship Albion, ever a ramshackle vessel if there was one, could sail into arena waters and make some serious waves.

Boasting an impressive Libertines stencilled moniker hanging from the ceiling, plus an array of mirrors, it was time to see if there was more than smoke to the indie stalwarts in such a cavernous ive setting. Since emerging in the last throws of the Britpop era, The Libertines have been showered with plaudits and pity in varying measures. 

Debilitating drug problems, burglary, fallouts – splits and reformations, it’s to their great credit the four original members have come through the other side and remain a much-lauded and supported collective. With a new LP in the offing, the well-received Anthems for Doomed Youth, they find themselves in difficult commercial territory – too big for nearby Rock City (a venue they did play last year) but not big enough for here – standing tickets have sold briskly, but there’s more seats empty than full.

It being the Monday before payday probably doesn’t help, but those in attendance are determined to make the most of it, judging by the buzzy atmosphere and swift business at the bar.

Blending large chunks of their new material with indie disco standards from the 00s heyday, 'Barbarians', 'Heart of the Matter', and 'Fame and Fortune' sit neatly alongside more recognisable offerings raucous 'Boys in the Band' and mid-tempo 'What Katie Did Next'. Elsewhere, an explosive 'Can’t Stand Me Now' and jaunty 'Gunga Din', sees thoughts of Tuesday morning commutes or coffee runs put firmly to the back of the mind, while a closing rally of 'Time for Heroes', 'Up the Bracket', and a sublime 'Don’t Look Back into the Sun' send the giddy masses into a nostalgic meltdown as frontmen, the towering and now wispy grey Pete Doherty and Zorro-esque Carl Barât, belt out the vocals millimetres apart.

Unfortunately, and this is where The Libertines run aground for me, alongside the great lineage of British rock music they are often lumped in with that runs from The Beatles and Stones to The Clash, The Smiths, The Stone Roses, Oasis and more recently the Arctic Monkeys, the London quartet’s cannon just doesn’t cut it. Five or six great songs, doesn’t make a classic band – the aforementioned boast more than that on one of their albums.

Perhaps that also explains the empty seats. A personal quibble maybe and the thousands who did show up certainly had a ball, but still too much smoke and mirrors for me.

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