It’s been a busy few weeks in the life of Peter Doherty, with murder rumours, reunion rumours and prison sentence rumours all surrounding him. A busy few weeks, but it’s hardly new to the former Libertines and Babyshambles front man.
Outside the grandiose HMV Institute in Birmingham milled hundreds of Pete wannabes, with dialect, hats and attitudes all owing a bow to Doherty, who’s reputation as always gave no promises of even turning up.
He did though, and his introduction to the stage caused mass hysteria and general chaos within the main room of the Institute. Shouts of “Pete!” screams of “I love you!” and the throwing of plastic pint glasses filled the already quite smoky air as the iconic Doherty strolled up to the microphone and exclaimed “Birmingham, you’re in quite a good mood aren’t ya.”
Armed with an acoustic guitar, two ballet dancers and an old ornate armchair, Pete opened with At the Flophouse, a song taken off one of his many free to download demo albums. It’s a song full of beautiful yet powerful imagery and some of his most delicate guitar playing to date, but it was drowned out by the groups of lads who just wanted to scream “FUCK FOREVERRRR!” and so the moment was lost.
Flittering between classic Libertines and Babyshambles songs, old unreleased material and some of his solo work, he showed no real sign of sticking to a confined set list. Instead he would often start playing the introduction to a song before whisking himself off into a completely different one. Although coupled with forgetting a few lines, including the relatively easy ones in For Lovers, this might just have been because he was visibly trashed. As it always is with Pete Doherty though, you can never quite tell what he’s trashed on.
He still played passionately though, raising the roof with classics such as Can’t Stand Me Now and Don’t Look Back Into The Sun. He looked like he was still enjoying himself, dancing and singing about his beloved QPR’s promotion to the Premier League. He was even joined by friend and singer/songwriter Alan Wass who played harmonica on Albion and Fuck Forever.
Despite looking unhealthy, despite sweating profusely after about three songs, despite forgetting lyrics and despite being guilty of some slack guitar playing, he still had complete command of the Institute, standing in front of thousands of people who idolise him as a god-like figure.
He divides opinion to polar levels, but that is mainly due to his actions away from the stage and the studio. There is simply no denying that the back catalogue he is able to draw from is unrivalled.
There aren’t many acts who can do that these days, if any, and it only goes to show the impact his two bands has had on British music over the last eight years.