Peter Doherty wears a hat, tailored suit and cufflinks – two different ones, after all. There has to be so much non-conformity. Otherwise, the appearance of the plump 43-year-old is hardly reminiscent of the wild guy who belonged to the rock revival two decades ago with his band The Libertines.
But you can recognize him by his neck tattoo and also by the rattling sound that blows across the field from the Supersonic stage in front of Tempelhof Airport. And finally there is his old band brother Carl Barât standing next to him, all in black, also with a hat and much closer to his former character than Doherty.
Scratchy, rough – the quartet from London sounds as if they came straight out of the garage at the beginning of their performance. It’s well recorded, puts on a confident show and constantly churns out old hits like “Boys In The Band” and “Can’t Stand Me Now”. Pogo is being danced in front, the sun is very low over the edge of the stage. And when Doherty and Barât sing together into the same mic, as they once did, the joy of hearing it again is perfect.
At some point, Doherty sweats through his shirt, a button on his stomach comes undone, Barât takes off his leather jacket – and his “Libertine” tattoo can be seen on his right arm in the handwriting of his neighbor. A happy sight, even if the Libertines may not quite fit into the sunlight in 2022.
However, they fit very well into the program of the three-day Tempelhof Sounds Festival, which is taking place for the first time. It’s characterized by rock bands, although things can sometimes get a little more raving, such as with the Parcels, who take their turn before the Libertines, and celebrate long instrumental descents on the Echo stage. Sometimes the Australian Berliners add a Nile Rodgers memorial guitar or steer in the direction of yacht rock. Everything is very relaxed, the audience grins and kisses.
People are dancing, cheering close together, no one is wearing a mask on this warm day. The first major pop festival in Berlin since the beginning of the pandemic is also the comeback of Tempelhof Airport as a concert location after more than six years. And once again it proves to be the perfect place for such events.
The organizers have placed all three stages on the concrete surface in front of the building, the hangars and the check-in hall are not used. The distances are relatively short, the programming clever. Also pleasant: the eye does not always fall on huge sponsor logos. There is also no fairground on the site, as is often the case these days. In addition to food and drinks, you can also buy posters, shirts and records. Buses from a TV station and a radio station are parked between the stands.
At Tempelhof Sounds the focus is clearly on the music, not the so-called event character. The creators – unlike their colleagues from Rock am Ring in the past week – tried to present a gender-balanced mix. Female-oriented acts such as My Ugly Clementine, Trixie Whitley or Freya Ridings can be experienced on the first day.
One early afternoon male duo that’s one of the better-known names in the line-up is the Sleaford Mods. As always with a minimal set-up: Andrew Robert puts his laptop on a box and presses “play”, only to dance around afterwards, while Jason Williamson listens to the post-punk electrobeat backing tracks with his head becoming increasingly red ramped up rants. Great fun, even if you can’t always follow the shouter’s East Midland accent. Its energy output alone is breathtaking.
A few hours later, the same applies to the main act and highlight of the opening day: Florence Welch, singer of Florence The Machine, is in constant motion during her 90-minute concert, jumping barefoot, running, dancing across the entire width of the Supersonic Stage. Because her six-piece band plays on a platform behind the 35-year-old, she has a clear path – and casts a spell over the crowd from the first second.
She starts with two tracks from her recently released album “Dance Fever”, demonstrating her impressive vocal power with the single “King”. With “What Kind Of Man” she follows up on one of her earlier hits and keeps the intensity constantly high for the first half hour.
With the new song “Free” the band with harp, violin and acoustic guitar ignites a folk rock crescendo that Arcade Fire couldn’t do more grippingly. The overwhelming sound typical of Florence The Machine is absolutely appropriate for a big stage like this.
In her white bobbin cape, Florence Welch without make-up looks like a kind of hippie witch. She has incredible stage presence and the fans really do everything she says: put the phone away, unpack it and light it up, jump along and sing. When the singer talks about how much she has missed all of this in recent years and how enthusiastic she is about this evening, you believe her immediately.
And when she sings “Dog Days Are Over,” it almost sounds like the “Dark Days Are Over.” For a magical moment, it actually feels like the dark days are over. But then you realize again that war is raging in Ukraine at the same time. A few blue and yellow flags can be seen on the festival grounds, visitors brought them with them. It remains strangely quiet on the stages on this subject.