There’s not much I can say that hasn’t already been said about Pete Doherty, idolised by some as a misunderstood hero, dismissed by many more as that drug addled waster who gets more coverage in the tabloids than Cheryl Cole’s tits. I’ve always tried to remain unaffected by Peter’s ‘public image’, after all, a musician should be judged on their music, not whatever they choose to get up to in the toilets after the gig. Apparently though, this isn’t the opinion of most, as anyone that I mention tonight’s gig to goes on to gleefully inform me that he’ll arrive on stage complete with obligatory crack pipe, an hour and a half late, and proceed to forget most of the lyrics to his own songs. I suppose if you’re going by his track record, they have a point…
As it happens, he walks onto the stage all of 6 minutes after the scheduled stage time, launching straight into ‘Arcady’, from his first solo effort, 2009’s Grace/Wastelands, which, despite mixed reactions at the time, seems to go down well enough tonight. Without pause, Doherty continues into Libertines classic ‘Don’t Look Back Into The Sun’, and by the looks of it, this is what the crowd are here for, as, enthralled, they sing along to every word. Doherty himself seems pretty aware of this, as the set is heavy on songs from the likely lads, although to be fair, it’s a good mix, with enough solo material and Babyshambles stuff to prove it’s not just a Libertines covers tour.
After a well received ‘Killamangiro’, two dancers come onto the stage to accompany Doherty on a heartfelt rendition of ‘For Lovers’, the purpose of whom doesn’t become any clearer as the night goes on; he pays even less attention to them than the crowd do. At one point, during an early demo, he appears for a second or two to forget what comes next, but with some prompting from fans at the front, the rest of the night goes by without a hitch. Though the crowd are loving it, Doherty remains resolutely blank faced, at some points almost mechanical, throughout most of the gig, albeit breaking out into a smile at the audience’s willingness to sing the last line of ‘What A Waster’; “mind your bleedin’ own you two bob cunt” five or six times over.
Doherty hardly talks at all during the 21 song set, and the little he does say is indecipherable to anyone not within a couple of metres of the stage. The crowd interaction comes, therefore, almost solely through the music. Set closer ‘The Good Old Days’ gets one of the best reactions of the night, before he leaves the stage, returning 15 minutes later with Alan Waas of support band The Lipstick Melodies on harmonica, to an apt encore of ‘Albion’, an excellent cover of The Beatles’ ‘Twist And Shout’, and ending the night on fan favourite ‘Fuck Forever’.
To the cynical Libertines fan, Doherty by himself perhaps lacks the charm of a full band set, the additional stage members are unnecessary, and occasionally he seems somewhat disillusioned with the whole thing. But during the points in the set where he and the crowd come together, and there are plenty, it’s a truly enjoyable experience. You should judge a musician on his music, and Peter Doherty is undeniably one of the best song writers to come out of the British music scene in recent years, these songs aren’t going to be forgotten anytime soon, and even though his heart may not be fully in it anymore, the quality of the music speaks for itself.
Photography by Tomasz Ras