Carl Barât is a busy guy these days. No sooner had he put together new band the Jackals (selected from auditions after advertising on Facebook) than the whole Pete Doherty/The Libertines saga sparked off again. Although Barât had already recorded most of what was going to be his second solo album before the three new guys became involved, together they played a few low-key gigs at the end of last year ahead of the release of Let It Reign in February.
However, after only a few more similar shows this spring, the project is being put on the back burner due to the recording of a third Libertines album. And come the summer festivals, Barât will be playing with his old band, not the Jackals. Rough luck on them that the reignited Pete/Carl bromance takes centre stage again.
Though great news for diehard Libertines fans, the timing is unfortunate because Let It Reign is a storming album showing a revitalized Barât backed by a pack of young Jackals with plenty of bite. The modest-sized Scala is nicely warmed up first by Trampolene, a lively Swansea trio led by Jack Jones who owe a lot to Oasis; and then continuing the Britpop theme, Essex quartet Asylums, fronted by Luke Branch, who sound a bit like a turbocharged Blur. By the time Carl Barât And The Jackals hit the stage the joint is rocking.
Not surprisingly playing all 10 tracks on the new album, which contains First World War-themed tales of brotherhood in the face of onslaught, they deliver a rousing set. Following a short, plaintive bugle-like trumpet intro, opening song Victory Gin launches into attack with its crashing chords and rallying cry, “We are not afraid of anyone”. First single Glory Days, with its reggae beat underpinning screeching guitars, comes across with Clash-like fervour, while the apocalyptic follow-up A Storm Is Coming is also played with passion. In contrast, the more soulful Let It Rain’s cathartic release benefits from the warm backing vocals of the Langley Sisters (including Barât’s partner Edie).
A keyboard player and three-piece horn section also add some texture to some songs, the latter particularly on the foot-tapping Run With The Boys, taken from Barât’s rather underwhelming 2010 solo album. His second band Dirty Pretty Things are represented by three songs including their biggest hit Bang Bang You’re Dead. Inevitably the Libertines covers such as Death On The Stairs get a strong reaction from the crowd, with Barât getting the chance to show his more sensitive side by playing the gently melodic France and The Ballad Of Grimaldi on solo acoustic guitar.
Everyone comes on stage for the final encore of the War Of The Roses, which gradually builds to a great climax, as Barât proclaims “You’re the greatest friend to me” – could that possibly be Pete, you wonder? The spotlight will turn to The Libertines come summertime, but judging from the Jackals’ performance they are hungry for more action, and Barât may well need them if plan A falls off the wagon again.