Peter Doherty, O2 Forum Kentish Town | reviews, news & interviews
Peter Doherty, O2 Forum Kentish Town
Peter Doherty, O2 Forum Kentish Town
Libertines singer fuses Bohemianism with the spirit of punk
Now the celebrity-drug-addict phase of Pete Doherty's career seems to be over the question remains as to what sort of artist he really is. After all, Doherty's best material always appeared to be inextricably woven into his chaotic lifestyle. The new album, Hamburg Demonstrations, on the other hand, was apparently recorded entirely drug-free. It's given fans pause for thought about where Doherty-the-phenomenon ends and Doherty-the-talent begins.
Before Tuesday's show one punter gave me his opinion. "The drugs were really an irrelevance," he told me, "What matters is that Pete lives in a world of his own and his gigs give us the opportunity to join him." If this was the same world that Pete's guitarist Jack Jones also inhabited it sounded Bohemian, indeed: Jones warmed up proceedings with a quarter hour of performance poetry that sounded like John Cooper Clarke with a Welsh accent.
A figure emerged from stage-right dressed in black leather and wearing a hat. It was Carl BaratDoherty arrived, a little late, wearing a slightly-too-tight Blues Brothers-style suit. In tow were his backing band, the Puta Madres, who would go on to help create a loose Rive Gauche atmosphere whilst maintaining admirable musical discipline. Particularly notable, again, was guitarist Jones: now bare-chested and with a Welsh flag wrapped around his head, he looked more like the Doherty of old than Doherty himself did.
Through "I Don't Love Anyone (But You're Not Just Anyone)", "Last of the English Roses" and "Kolly Kibber" – three rather melodic solo songs – the main man meandered around the stage picking out notes with the air of a tuneful drunk: a woozy air which may have been partly put-on but, then again, possibly not. Then, halfway through track four, "You're My Waterloo", something happened to inject a hundred volts straight into the moshpit. A figure emerged from stage-right dressed in black leather and wearing a hat. It was Carl Barât, Doherty's sparring partner from the Libertines, and he was on fine guitar-playing form. But although Barât would return throughout the night – most notably for a barnstorming reading of "Gunga Din" – his presence was only incidental to the success of the evening.
More pertinent was the warmth that came from the audience sharing the singer's alternative reality. As Doherty progressed from wearing a full three-piece suit to just a T-shirt, guest players came and went and speakers were knocked over. At one point Doherty even managed to trip up Jones, who finished the song flat on his back. Yet for those who bought in – apparently everyone here – these ragged moments felt less like unfettered chaos than a letting-go.
Maybe, at some level, Doherty was telling us to stop sweating the unimportant stuff and to connect with something higher? Or maybe everyone was just having a great time. What was undeniable though was the wave of euphoria that hit the room during two very spirited versions of "Killamangiro" and "Fuck Forever" from the Babyshambles era.
The most rock'n'roll moment, however, came at the end. As "Up the Bracket" wound down, Doherty launched into an improvised rendition of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah". Barât joined him, sometimes in harmony, occasionally in different keys. Miki Beavis waded in with her violin but Katia de Vidas's keyboard had already been knocked over. By the end Barât was tearing away at the drum kit. The song finished and Doherty threw his Fender Stratocaster into the crowd. The crowd erupted – they knew their hero hadn't really changed a bit.
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