Less than a week on from the release of beautifully nostalgic album Hamburg Demonstrations, Pete Doherty played last night to a sold out Kentish Town Forum, performing a stunning set to the 2,300 strong crowd. Just like a typical Pete Doherty gig, it was a messy crazy night full of belting anthems, classic tracks (from both The Libertines and Babyshambles as well as his solo work), showcasing his pure rock brilliance.
The night started off with Jack Jones; I absolutely love this guy! I first saw him as a solo act opening for the Libertines back in January at the O2. He’s crazily funny and witty, with very lyrically intricate spoken word poems. He started with To Be a Libertine, going on to perform crowd favourites Poundland, Health & Wellbeing and Ketamine. He’s a fantastic musician too; his band, Trampolene, are an undeniable force of power and showcase guitar rock’n’roll at its finest, but Jack is a lot softer when singing as a solo act. He played a beautiful cover of The Smiths’ Please, Please, Please, Let Me Get What I Want which the entire crowd chanted back to him, and even covered Pete’s own track For Lovers; both were simple stunning renditions of such wonderful songs. His accent is thick and Welsh, coming across so naturally in his music; what a personal and intimate way to start the gig too. The support last night also featured Simon from Hightown Pirates. Like Jack, he played a couple of acoustic tracks, and what I loved about his set was the softness of that acoustic guitar paired with the grittiness and rawness of his vocals. It was almost like an acoustic post-punk sound, similar to bands like The Enemy and The Jam. He was highly politically charged too, which was so refreshing as that bluntness and open anger at the current state of politics is something a lot of musicians tend to shy away from. I just wished he could have been on for longer, but Hightown Pirates are playing a gig at The Water Rats on December 14th for which tickets can be purchased here. The other support wasn’t really a support as such; the venue was really dark and smokey so when he walked on stage all the crowd could see was a tall silhouetted figure with a guitar. Even when he started playing it was hard to make out who it was, but then the stage lit up and it was John Hassall, Libertines bassist! That was when a lot of people lost their shit as the realisation of a Libertines ‘reunion’ became clear. He performed brilliantly too; as the controversy and excitement surrounding The Libertines tends to focus on Pete and Carl, I feel like John is overlooked to a degree when he is actually an incredible singer and guitarist, not just on bass but also on an acoustic six string which he played last night. He was really soft and romantically melancholic; there was an overall heavy sense of nostalgia to the night, opening up beautifully with these three artists.
And then for Pete Doherty; he was due to come on stage at 8.45, yet actually came on at around 9.30. I think there was an underlying sense of panic and nerves rippling throughout the venue, with some worrying he might not turn up. It’s hard to explain how much love and respect Libertines fans feel for him though, almost protective and defensive. Libertines fans are like a community, with fans from all over the world (notably South America) being in the crowd with me. Ultimately Jack’s poem To Be a Libertine sums that sentiment up perfectly, with everyone knowing just what it means and how it feels. When Pete rocked up on stage, the audience lost it. He was so wonderfully confident and beautiful up there, and you could just tell how much his music meant to him and the electric feeling he felt playing to the audience. He opened with I Don’t Love Anyone (But You’re Not Just Anyone). This track has been a favourite of mine for years (he’s been playing it for a while, and has just released it officially onto his album). As a performer, he really excelled on stage; Pete’s vocals are what I adore the most- they’re raspy and raw and just embody what I love about indie rock and post-punk music perfectly. Although The Libertines have this crazy power and rock edge which sees mental heavy crowds full of moshing and fans losing their minds, Pete’s solo work is a lot softer and lighter, yet still had a really brilliant crowd. The venue was packed out, full of screams and cheers. Pete is one of the indie rock legends of this generation, and his solo work is just as credible as his work in The Libertines. Other tracks he performed which I loved included Kolly Kibber and The Whole World Is Our Playground. Brighton Rock is actually one of my favourite books, and these intelligent little references and anecdotes in Pete’s lyrics just makes his music all the more enthralling. Last of the English Roses was beautiful too, as was Fuck Forever (of course) which saw a fantastic rowdy mosh pit form for it. His band (the Puta Madres) were fantastic too, with beautiful piano playing and wonderful guitar and violin throughout (Jack Jones was actually Pete’s guitarist in the band); Pete had such a close relationship too with the band, often joking with them on stage and sharing microphones. You could tell how much Pete was enjoying the crowd, with an especially extended encore for the audience. It was such a messy show, really unrefined and chaotic but this mad hectic nature to anything Pete Doherty-related is what makes him such an incredible musician. The gig had fun covers embedded into the set too, with Pete singing lines from Oasis’ Don’t Look Back in Anger, Chris Isaak’s Wicked Game, and him and Carl preforming a cover of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah accompanied by the most stunning violin. As most fans there were ultimately Libertines fans, paired by the fact it was a hometown gig for Pete, it made sense for him to play a load of Libertines tracks. He played Gunga Din and Up The Bracket (which everyone gave Pete their ‘two cold fingers’ to), with Carl coming and joining him on stage for these. It was just unbelievable to see Pete and Carl sharing that microphone, swigging wine from the same bottle, and singing Gunga Din together (which also featured a verse in Spanish). Carl came on and off the stage throughout the night, and the first time he came on was for You’re My Waterloo. This was among the first few songs Pete played, and I think that was the one that got the best crowd reaction. The deafening singing back of lyrics from the audience drowned out Pete himself, with fans madly screaming those beautifully penned lyrics ‘you’ll never fumigate the demons, no matter how much you smoke. So just say you love me for three good reasons, and I’ll throw you the rope.’ This track is one million percent my favourite off Anthems For Doomed Youth, so to have Pete play it so wonderfully with Carl joining him for the guitar solo was unreal. The whole gig was magic in a way, on a whole other level. There’s a reason why Pete Doherty is one of this generation’s most renowned indie artists, and the beauty and nostalgic romanticism of last night showcased this impeccably.
Gig rating: ★★★★★
His incredible new album, Hamburg Demonstrations, is available to order here