How would you celebrate getting out of prison? Evidently, if you were Pete Doherty in 2008, and getting out of jail is not a new experience, you decide to crash the Florence & the Machine gig to belt a Johnny Cash classic, ‘Folsom Prison Blues’, because that’s just what he did upon his release in May 2008.
Florence Welch and Doherty were friendly enough that, upon the ladder’s release from Wormwood Scrubs, the two took the stage for a joyous and ramshackle rendition of the prison-tale country classic. Despite Doherty’s croak and typical wandering in and out of pitch, there is strong evidence that he was sober during this performance: he had produced a clean drug test for Sky News just days before. The chances that he went right back to indulging his habits? Let’s not speculate.
Doherty was ostensibly jailed for driving offences, a charge that would get him arrested again a year later, but the Libertines frontman was in possession of heroin both times, which likely didn’t help either of his cases. Word has it that Doherty’s living clean in France these days, but whether that’s true or not, he seems happier and healthier than he ever was in the 2000s.
There’s a mellow charm about his and Welch’s performance here, highlighted by the stark dichotomy in their vocal approaches. Welch adds her operatic harmonies when she can, but they clatter against Doherty’s weathered howl in such bizarre fashion that neither seems to fully commit to each other, deciding instead to trade lines and just have fun with it.
Doherty is clearly having a ball tootling on his harmonica, which likely required a heavy bit of sanitation afterwards. All in all, it’s an off-the-cuff and wacky performance that remains a kooky time capsule nearly fifteen years later. The Man in Black would either be proud or be rolling in his grave, but either way, it’s an effective performance.