Review from Mike Caulfied (MEN):
WHILE tonight isn’t exactly the welcome-at-the-prison-gates, freedom gig it’s being billed as (having been a free man again for over a week now), this rare solo excursion this far up north for the redtop-mainstay and sometime Babyshambles man Pete Doherty still holds the promise of being something special and intoxicating.The lank figure of Doherty- fully suited up with trademark trilby-it would seem still has a cult-like command over his followers, apparent from the volume swell that greets the haphazard striking of the first few chords of opener ‘East Of Eden’, which despite only appearing as a B-side begins the evenings many communal sing-alongs.Followed with a stumbling run of early Libertines glories ‘Up The Bracket’, ‘Last Post On The Bugle’, and ‘What a Waster’- each is a shining example as to why most here first fell for the notorious frontmans poetic charms.Though Doherty’s habit of indiscriminately slowing and changing passages rarely for the better (his inner meter has never been one to set your watch to anyway!), whilst stumbling and mumbling away his more heartfelt sentiments, soon begins to irritate.Even for someone famous and celebrated for such sloppy vocal and six-string deliveries- much to the annoyance of the few producers whose job it’s been to rein in such quirks- tonight it feels far too contrive, with much loved numbers ‘What Katie Did’, ‘La Belle Et Al Bête’, and an abandoned run-through of ‘Albion’ suffering most. Soaring versions of ‘Time For Heroes’- still heralded by many as his greatest moment- and ‘Can’t Stand Me Now’ have the room in full voice, but even for the most die-hard there are plenty of moments of frustration felt tonight. If it’s true that Doherty has turned a corner in his personal life maybe it’s about time his performances caught up too.
And a report from FDB's official reporter Alicepooh:
I’m not quite sure when stopping in Manchester on our way to Cumbria to see Peter Doherty became the sensible thing to do, but somehow in the past week we’d ordered tickets and this afternoon struggled with M6 traffic and Manchester directions to arrive at the University’s Academy to see the first of a series of solo shows. Peter has created a problem for himself. Having worked incredibly hard over the past year to consolidate Babyshambles’ reputation as an amazing live band, he’s now decided to do some larger solo gigs. Clearly he’s had a penchant for playing small, impromptu solo shows for a long time, but aside from the Hackney Empire shows last April, the biggest audiences he’s played alone have been at the Rhythm Factory – home territory. The Manchester Academy is a big venue – not Brixton Academy big, but probably in the region of 2000 capacity. The audience seemed to be a typical ‘Shambles crowd – a bit quieter than the normal Manchester rowdy, but nonetheless, chanting, Pete, Pete and singing the intro to ‘I Wish’ whilst waiting for him to appear. Due to come on at 9pm, it was about quarter past when he strode onto the stage, dark suit, broad-brimmed hat, dark shirt, slightly less than too much bling… and a cup of tea. Pausing to open one of several envelopes which had been thrown on stage, and greeting the crowd with a cheery, ‘Hello Manchester’, he launched into ‘East of Eden’. We were delighted with this opener, but few in the crowd appeared to know the song, which seemed to unsettle Peter, a feeling which lasted most of the evening. Peter was clearly nervous, and became more so as the crowd failed to respond positively to the quieter, less well known songs. During the first part of the set, he injected a number of older Libertines songs, but valiantly returned to some of the unreleased stalwarts of his smaller solo sets, becoming more uncomfortable as the audience became restive. The effect was to make the music somewhat disjointed, and he chatted quite a bit to establish a rapport. An approximation of the set list is as follows: East of Eden Can’t Stand Me Now Up the Bracket What a Waster Dilly Boys Good Old Days Breck Road Lover Music When the Lights Go Out Ballad of Grimaldi What Katie Did Hired Gun Belle et la Bete Last Post on the Bugle/Delivery Fag Break Pipedown You Talk Albion There She Goes Time for Heroes Back From the Dead (part) There were some wonderful moments. Good Old Days, when Peter attempted to sing both Carl’s and his part in the introductory lines, a lovely version of Music When the Lights Go Out, and a ramshackle attempt at Alan Wass’ Hired Gun (someone requested it, and Peter said he’d give it a go, though he couldn’t remember it – which was pretty obvious). Pipedown got the audience really going, confirming that they were, indeed, a ‘Shambles crowd. I was particularly pleased to hear the Ballad of Grimaldi, and had just been wishing out loud that he’d play it. Clearly telepathy is one of his skills, because he did. However, it was under appreciated, and Peter had to do his, ‘shush, quiet, you’ll like this bit…’ reminiscent of Salome at the Hackney Empire, in a bid to get the audience to listen. All a bit sad, and made us want to hug Peter and thump the unappreciative crowd. Early on, two or three songs in, he said, ‘I really don’t know what to play. I had a proper good set list, all chronological and everything… ‘ He added, ‘I’ve played here before, with The Libertines and Babyshambles, but I’ve decided to do some solo shows…’ He didn’t say why he’d abandoned his ‘proper set list’ – but it seemed obvious to us – the crowd just didn’t want to hear it, and Peter didn’t feel up to ploughing on regardless. Dilly Boys went down like a lead balloon, and not many joined in when encouraged to sing ‘and she’s the sweetest girl…’ bit. Breck Road Lover was introduced with a lovely tale about writing it, ‘I want to play something now that I wrote when I was 16… 17. It’s about a girl who live in the flat above the shop opposite when I used to work in the summer at my Uncle’s Green Grocer’s in Liverpool. The shop was Ted’s Beds, and I used to dream… I didn’t really have a life. Sometimes her boyfriend would come over and they’d have a right set to. They were better than TV.’ If you find Peter’s on stage antics and chatter entertaining, you would have enjoyed the show. He tried to play harmonica using a neck-frame on Dilly Boys and one other, failing completely to make the bloody thing work – although unlike the previous times I’ve seen him fiddle around with one he actually managed to play it a bit. Grabbing a red towel to dry off his head, he mock-boxed the microphone stand, managing to knock it out and giving himself a victory salute. Someone presented him with a hand painted Union Jack with ‘Backstage?’ artfully inked on the back. ‘Isn’t this backstage?’ Peter responded, fetching his own Union Jack, tearing it in half and presenting half to the flag-maker. He chatted about tomorrow’s Soccer Six match, and was cheered when he announced that his first game was against the ‘Sun’. At the end of the first part of the set he dragged on his old friend Mairead, now manager of Florence and the Machine, the support band, informing us all that when he’d first met her she’d been in a manufactured girl band, rather like the Spice Girls. ‘You cunt’ she responded, affectionately, ‘no one knows that.’ He replaced Katie with Amy for a couple of bits of What Katie Did, and when he came back from his fag break, announced that he was sorry he was so long, but he’d been running around backstage looking for some blemish concealer. A stage invader seized the mic during You Talk and did quite a good rendition of the song, with Peter playing guitar until the guitar failed, allowing the red-sweatered fan to dominate for rather too long, and leaving Peter somewhat out of control. Most people in the audience seemed happy, and the second part ran more smoothly than the first, stage invaders and guitar failures not withstanding. There was a lovely version of There She Goes, and Time for Heroes was a punchy nearly ending. But somehow, for us, the evening was uncomfortable. With the ‘home’ crowd of the Rhythm Factory, Peter would have relaxed into the set and been able to play a combination of his selection and audience requests. But the Manchester Academy was too big for that level of informality, and clearly wanted a full band-style set. Consequently Peter fidgeted, seemed indecisive about what he was playing, and interrupted songs with chat and diversions. Perhaps he should have stuck to his plan and not pandered to the audience, or perhaps he’d be better off touring solo when he’s got a solo album to promote so that the audience is more prepared for the material and style. It just seemed a bit of a shame. Solo shows ought to be a real opportunity for him to showcase some of the wonderful songs that aren’t appropriate for a Shambles gig, and for more people to get the opportunity to experience what can be true magic – Peter being whimsical and charming and spontaneous. Whatever the right recipe for that is, tonight wasn’t it. Most of the evening we just wanted to give him a hug.
Plus! Beautiful photos by Shirlaine on Flickr.
While I'm writing, Peter and Babyshambles are supposedly about to play at the Celebrity Six Soccer match, at Millwall Football Club, together with McFly, Wombats, Twang, Noel Fielding and many others.