It’s Monday night, 8.30pm. I’m stood outside KOKO in Camden, London.
Little Nikki from Big Brother is prancing around outside complaining down her phone. I don’t think her name was on the guest list or something, she certainly doesn’t look happy. Anyway I wasn’t here to observe ‘D’ list celebrities from reality TV shows.
I was here for the sole purpose to see ex Libertine, Dirty Pretty Things, front-man, Carl Barât who I think we can safely consider ‘A’ list in the world of rock ‘n’ roll.
I finished my cigarette and entered past the Herculean doorman. For those unfamiliar to KOKO, the venue was originally the Camden Palace that went under some pretty extensive refurbishment. Now it has plush decor and a trendy cabaret feel about it, in fact it’s very similar to the theatre in The Muppet Show.
Tonight there’s not a puppet or a Muppet in sight. For the clientele in this swish venue we have only the über cool and from looking around, mostly women in their mid-twenties. Naturally I head to the brightly lit bar and order beer for my friend and I.
The bill came to a whopping £8.80 for two cans of Red Stripe (other beers are available). Okay, the venue IS amazing but my god, you don’t ‘alf get robbed at the bar.
Beers in hand, we head to one of the side theatre boxes upstairs to the right. Now the Muppet envision is turning into reality as it feels we have become Slater and Waldorf, the two ornery, disagreeable old men who like to dish out banter to the performers except we were truly excited and happy to await the great man.
Around 9.30, on walk the band and what an entourage. I counted a cellist, double bassist, a saxophonist, a trumpet player, drummer, bassist, keyboardist, guitarist and two female backing singers, I believe there names were Eadie and Rosie. Suited up in black, white shirt and tie, their mothers would be proud.
Then on walked Carl, dressed as you’d imagine in true Libertine fashion, sporting a black leather jacket, skinny jeans and Doc Martin style boots. When it comes to the looks department, Mr. Barât must have his own shop floor. So that’s why there were so many women!
It struck me straight away that he didn’t have his guitar with him which I kinda thought made him look slightly out of place, but he grabbed the mic unflinchingly and opened up with a splendid performance of The Magus which incidentally is the opener to his eponymous titled solo debut. Fantastic, the crowd loved it and then with the trumpet intro onto Run With The Boys, a sure-fire winner of a track, this pretty much puts him in his respected place as a solo artist.
We were all with him at this stage and then he strapped on his guitar and surprised us with a Libertines’ classic (come on, they’re all classics), The Man Who Would Be King. Does this mean Mr. Doherty will be joining him on stage? After all, he is in town and they’ve kinda patched things up, what with the small reunion last year.
No he doesn’t even though some of the crowd are shouting “Where’s Pete?”. It’s for the better really, after all this is Carl’s night. TMWWBK goes down an absolute blinder. Tonight looks like we’re gonna be treated not only with his new slightly sombre material but with some back catalogue gems.
He later delights us with She’s Something ,which is my favourite from his debut and I think that rendition was my favourite on the night. We’re later blessed with one of Dirty Pretty Things’ finest, Deadwood and he’s joined on vocals by former band member, Didz clutching a can of that rather expensive beer we were robbed at the bar with (I bet his was free). As you could probably gather, the crowd went absolutely ballistic, it felt like The Koko roof was gonna come right off.
Didz returned to the stage again for TDPT anthem Bang Bang Your Dead, a good as tune as any Libertines track in my opinion. Didz clearly was enjoying himself, acknowledging Carl like it was a mini reunion for their ill fated band. Carl would return to the stage for the encore performing another six tracks including a beautiful acoustic version of The Ballad Of Grimaldi ending the song with a Spanish-esque tactility.
It was the final tune that would bring the house down, Don’t Look Back Into The Sun. He takes aim, he shoots, he scores!
Mr. Barât knows how to put on a show with the compendium of his new, non-commercial songs mixing them with the classics proved to be a perfect blend. I’m sure all who attended went home with joy in their hearts.