We had the pleasure of seeing one of the most enigmatic frontmen of the last 20 years on Friday night. Peter Doherty of The Libertines, Babyshambles and tabloid fame took to the stage at the glorious Hackney Empire for his second night in the capital as part of his tour to promote his new solo record.
The night started as you might expect, wine and cigs in the adjacent green area watching the curious mix of young and old, innocent and far too experienced, drunk and doped crowd mill their way in to the venue. After some ample support (Jack Jones of Trampolene a particular favourite) the night began in earnest as Mr Doherty made his way clumsily to the mic.
The more elderly among us were happy then. He had shown up and could seemingly converse – having been burnt so many times before we were appeased. We needn’t have worried Doherty has been cleran a while now and his attitude to the industry seems to have mellowed too with a genuine appreciation of the crowd, venue and ticket sales radiating from his face.
He pounced through a few new numbers, paid tribute to his friend Amy Winehouse with ‘Flags of the Old Regime’ and even made a few ‘date nights’ turn in to the ‘the night’ with his touching rendition of ‘Last of the English Roses’. But the crescendo came with the first chords of ‘Albion’ as the crowd began to swell with pride they positively burst to see the other half of this act arrive on stage. Carl Barat made his way with a jaunty dance across the spotlight for a kiss and a cuddle with his mate then began to assimilate himself in to the band and back his friend.
“Ladies and Gentlemen, The Libertines” says Doherty and the crowd go wild and dutifully John, Gary and Carl make their way to the stage and begin to give the crowd what they really wanted. A goddamn fucking reunion. Right there in this comparatively tiny venue. It was incredible, energetic, furious and seemingly all in time with still enough chaos to make it feel authentic. ‘Don’t Look Back in to The Sun’, ‘The Good Old Days’, ‘Horrorshow’ amongst other songs were played to a gleeful crowd.
When all was said and done and the heat of the moment had somewhat cooled I felt a pang of pity for Pete. Here he was out on his own, trying to promote a very, very credible record, and all anybody wants is the whole gang not just a member. They want the old days not the new scribbles.
Shameful considering that his new work seems the most poignant, coherent and veracious work of his life – all of which will likely fall on leather jacketed deaf ears, craving the beer soaked anarchy of his and their youth.
That’s not to be derogatory about The Libertines, love them or loathe them, they encapsulated a moment in time if not a generation of us. But the sadness comes in knowing that they will never re-ignite that to their fullest singularly. Only together does their power really come forth regardless of the quality of work they put out.
On the new record as well as the new condition for performance; Doherty has really found his feet. He may just find that as time passes there will be fewer and fewer people throwing roses at them. The Good Old Days.. we will remember them well.