York Barbican is the last place to expect Peter Doherty to play. More known for playing spontaneous gigs in East London flats, it’s a treat to have such an influential figure from the UK music scene in the last ten years travelling up north once more after a fine set at Leeds Festival this summer. Soundsphere certainly hopes to see more musicians of his calibre grace the stage of York Barbican in the future.
This tour is an opportunity for Doherty to show us what he is really capable of. Stripped down with only an acoustic guitar, a dirty pint and a harmonica, here Doherty is the controller of his destiny and music, and no longer at the mercy of the media flurry that surrounds him. On occasion however, the school sports hall-style of the venue does seem out of place with the set Doherty presents – a more intimate venue would suit his more laid-back “street poet” offerings.
Nevertheless, playing plenty of tracks from his first (and excellent) 2009 solo album ‘Grace/Wastelands’ (including a rendition of ‘The Last of the English Roses’ sung in tribute to ‘Yorkshire Roses’), Doherty ploughs on with the set seemingly unaware of the tradition of breaking for long applause. Stopping only to take a sip of his pint or an occasional re-tune: Doherty pauses twice in fact, to re-tune in the middle of ‘Time For Heroes’ and still manages to finish the song long after the crowd has sung right to the last chorus themselves. And indeed it is The Libertines and Babyshambles songs that only really get the crowd going above his own solo work, most notably ‘Can’t Stand Me Now’ where the audience responds with all of Carl’s Barat’s lines in an attempt to fill the ever-present gap in The Libertines “call and response” style made famous by the co-frontmen. Poignant performances of ‘Music When The Lights Go Out’, ‘What Katie Did’ and ‘Kilimanjaro’ are particular highlights.
Watching Doherty on stage, it’s easy to forget that he was released early from a six-month jail sentence only last month. Finding ways to differentiate between the prison-hopping, serial tabloid pin-up and the romantic troubadour he is tonight is simple: his real song-writing flair and vision is evident throughout. He’s troubled yes, but mightily talented with it.
As expected, the evening continues to be eventful. Two stage invasions are countered swiftly by understandably wary Barbican staff, and there’s an amusing bit of crowd banter where one fan attempts to coax Doherty into lighting a cigarette onstage. Doherty jokes but doesn’t oblige tapping his pockets mock-exasperatedly. Hilariously, this comment is met with a wave of cigarettes and cigarette packets descending on the stage – fortunately none of them are lit! Needless to say, at the end of the set (closing with a wonderful acoustic version of ‘F**k Forever’), Doherty picks up every last one to take away with him. Old habits really do die hard.
For more information visit the official Pete Doherty website.