The good ship Albion has never run a smooth course, and there was a time when the thought of it docking in the headline slot of one of the world's most legendary and prestigious festivals seemed like a pipe dream.
The likely lads pulled off an admirable feat when they reunited for a sub-headline set back at Reading and Leeds 2010, but many feared that this was little more than a nostalgia exercise - another monkey spinning on the reunion treadmill.
Now, they're on the eve of dropping their long-awaited third album, Anthems For Doomed Youth. For most artists, topping the bill at R+L is a reward for finally hitting paydirt and soaring into the higher echelons of stardom. But of course, drug problems, run-ins with the law and various other forms of car crash musical tragedy meant that The Libs would never hit that level. Before they take to the stage, it feels more like they have to fight to prove themselves.
After mixed reviews from their set in Leeds days before, there are fears that the band may remain forever a shambles. When we met with Gary, John and surprise guest Ed Harcourt backstage beforehand, and they seemed more than ready for battle.
That typical Libs romance soon bathes over the masses gathered in the historic main field of Reading, as Vera Lynne's 'We'll Meet Again' croons out of the speakers. With little more fanfare, Doherty's cherubic grin beams over the main screen and 'Horror Show' kicks off with haste. Pits erupt, crowd surfers take flight and a skyful of flares are thrown into the ensuing madness. This is going to be absolutely mega.
While their sound was born in the sweaty backroom toilet venues of London, that intense energy of these indie dancefloor staples is magnified by their every-growing status as true classics. 'Vertigo', 'Can't Stand Me Now', 'Time For Heroes' and a tear-jerking 'Music When The Lights Go Out' get a far better response than anything played by Metallica the evening previous. This the soundtrack of a generation, and it's about bloody time they were aired on this scale.
There's also a damn good reason for them to be here - their new album is a triumph, and 'Gunga Din', the Ed Harcourt-featuring 'You're My Waterloo' and Anthem For Doomed Youth's title track land like old favourites. This is the sound of a band in love once again, and its hard to not fall with them.
After a killer five song encore, culminating in violent fits of joy during 'Up The Bracket, 'What A Waster' and 'I Get Along', its impossible to not get swept away in the camaraderie.
"Reading!" howls a wide-eyed Gary Powell. "I hope you've had a good weekend. And remember - you are all Libertines."
Amen. The battle has been won, and the good ship Albion sails on and on.
The Libertines played:
'Can't Stand Me Now'
'Campaign Of Hate'
'Time For Heroes'
'Music When The Lights Go Out'
'What Katie Did'
'Boys In The Band'
'The Ha Ha Wall'
'You're My Waterloo'
'Last Post On The Bugle'
'Death On The Stairs'
'Tell The King'
'Anthem For Doomed Youth'
'The Good Old Days'
'Fame And Fortune'
'Up The Bracket'
'What A Waster'
'Don't Look Back Into The Sun'
'I Get Along'
The Libertines' upcoming UK show dates are below. Tickets go on sale at 9am on Friday 4 September. For tickets and more information, visit here.
The Libertines will play:
Sun September 06 2015 - GLASGOW O2 Academy
Mon September 07 2014 - NOTTINGHAM Rock City
Tue September 08 2015 - BRISTOL O2 Academy Bristol
Thu September 10 2015 - LONDON Electric Ballroom
Fri September 11 2015 - MANCHESTER Ritz
Watch our documentary inside The Libertines' Bucket Shop below
The Libertines will release their long-awaited third album Anthems For Doomed Youth on Friday 11 September.
Issue Four of the Gigwise Print magazine is on pre-order now! Order here.