“Don’t worry, Pete‘s here,” announces support act Jack Jones to an expectant Albert Hall audience. “He might not be later,” he adds. A predictable roar goes up.
Jones‘s teasing words carry extra relevance to this Manchester audience. Doherty axed a Libertines show in the same city in September 2015 due to ‘a medical emergency’, and just two days before this gig cancelled a Rough Trade East in-store session blaming ‘delays en route’ to the London record store.
Jones – who takes to the stage all on his, erm, Jack Jones – is something of a one-man Royal Variety Show: equal parts covers, poems, and original tunes. The Welshman normally fronts Swansea indie-rockers Trampolene, but he’s here as the lead guitarist in Doherty‘s new backing band, The Puta Madres, a patchwork quilt of musicians that also includes ex-Babyshambles bassist Drew McConnell.
He aims to please the locals with pointedly slack versions of The Smiths‘s ‘Please, Please, Please, Let Me Get What I Want’ and Oasis‘s ‘Bring It On Down’, but it’s his gritty spoken word that grabs the crowd’s attention. Titles like ‘Ketamine’ and ‘Poundland’ give you an idea of where he’s coming from – weaving mundane observations with tales of wit and woe, and all delivered in an unashamed Welsh brogue.
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There’s a take on ‘For Lovers’, Doherty‘s collaboration with Wolfman, to whet the appetite, before closing with Alcohol Kiss by his own band Trampolene, and it’s a case of job well done for the young man as the venue swells to capacity.
Some 36 minutes after the venue’s highly optimistic stage time of 9pm, Peter – the ‘r’ is prerequisite these days – takes to the stage. Forever apologetically reminding people that it’s not the Royal Albert Hall, Mancunians have taken this wonderfully re-imagined Methodist church venue to their hearts. Tonight Doherty is their preacher – if they can make out what he’s saying.
They certainly do when he launches into ‘Albion’ of Babyshambles fame. The hall’s 100-year-old organ looks resplendent as it falls under the gaze of the stage lights while the audience, from barrier to balcony, bellow back every backwater the song mentions.
Doherty, here in support of his second solo LP ‘Hamburg Demonstrations’, ditches his guitar as he stomps his way through ‘I Don’t Love Anyone (But You’re Not Just Anyone)’ from that album and segues unneatly – does he know any other way? – into ‘Last Of The English Roses’.
The middle portion of the set sees Doherty at his best; spunky and ratty all rolled into one. Babyshambles‘s ‘Wolfman’ is possibly the highlight of the night, bookended by ‘Hell To Pay At The Gates Of Heaven’ and ‘Down For The Outing’.
And then it all goes a bit flat. Throughout, Doherty ticks off every rock and roll cliché in the book: several mic stands are discarded, he launches a guitar into the air, and he eventually kicks down a stack of amplifiers.Of course, the disarray is all part of the draw, but at some points it feels like others – on and off stage – are having to babysit for the misbehaving child. In parts, Doherty’s bandmates seem unsure what he’s going to play next, with McConnell looking particularly frustrated as they play past the 11pm curfew with stage hands loitering.
A cover of The Velvet Underground’s ‘Ride Into The Sun’ holds up well and is followed by blasts of ‘Don’t Look Back In Anger’. When he sings: “I said you see these two cold fingers?” on a raucous ‘Up The Bracket’, Doherty is giving a knowing, snarling, V-sign to anyone who thinks he should be leaving the stage. There’s another brief Smiths cover, ‘What She Said’, and all appears done.
Then, in a moment of magic that only a select few can muster, Doherty salvages a ropey finale. When Jones‘s guitar is cut off after just a few chords, he and Doherty launch into a spine-tingling a capella chorus of ‘Fuck Forever’. Both men launch themselves into the crowd, much to the dismay of security, and a two-minute tug-of-war ensues.
It’s a chaotic conclusion, and one that’s worth savouring for a crowd that will evidently always have time for this particular hero.