“Hello Camden” were the first mumbled words to come out of Carl Barât’s mouth in the famous Koko club, and they were delivered with a cheeky smirk, perhaps an ode to far more debaucherous nights he would have enjoyed in North London’s cultural heartland.
He shared the stage with lesser known faces, including his brother Ollie on guitar and the stunningly beautiful and enviously talented Langley sisters. Behind him was a double bass, keys and even a cello, a far cry from some of his infamous guerrilla gigs in the early days of the Libertines. Long gone are the days of fighting and spitting and storming off stage, Carl has grown up, and his album is a telling testament to this new found maturity.
The set quite naturally consisted of songs off his solo album, with the wickedly dark Magus, the classic English heartbreak tale that is Je Regrette, Je Regrette and the far more uplifting Run With The Boys standing out in particular. His band remained incredibly tight throughout and Carl, looking healthier than ever in a customary leather jacket, delivered the vocals in a way only he can.
Of course, the crowd wouldn’t have been completely satisfied without the work Barât is more famous for, and he tore into versions of The Libertines’ The Man Who Would Be King, Up The Bracket and the closing song Don’t Look Back Into The Sun. Dirty Pretty Things’ guitarist Didz Hammond also joined him for backing vocals on Deadwood and Bang Bang You’re Dead. Quite unexpectedly and perhaps disappointingly these were the songs that gained the biggest reactions, lifting the beautifully ornate roof off the Koko club.
It was these songs that really made Barât glow with confidence, a sign that, despite his abilities as a songwriter and as a singer, he feels more at ease when there’s less to prove and he’s back in his comfort zone, singing about the Vallance Road and the Death Disco.
Too many classics and he’d have been accused of being a walking juke box, cashing in off days gone by, and on the flipside if he’d neglected the successes of his former bands then there would have been plenty of disappointed faces heading towards the Northern Line afterwards.
In typical fashion, he absolutely smashed it, reminding the world of not only his unique and genuine talent, but also his ability to leave a crowd delirious.
Whatever happens with the Libertines remains to be seen, and his song dedications to Pete suggest relations between the two are, for now at least, positive. However, it’s not about all of that right now, it’s about Carl Barât embarking on a whole new musical adventure, and it’s an adventure he is more than capable of fulfilling.