Morning breaks for Pete Doherty with the news of another court fine for the drug use that has delayed this latest UK tour.The fans are rewarded with a show that turns back time, stripping away the tabloid infamy, the Kate Moss soap opera and the self-destruction, to reveal the Doherty who, with The Libertines, inspired a generation of musicians.
You can see the difference as soon as Doherty walks on, bang on time and soberly suited. This tour was delayed to give him more time to deal with his addiction, and the drifting zombie of some previous gigs is gone. Instead, after a wry word of thanks for "justice" in his latest court cameo, it's straight into "The Blinding", which, with "Pipedown", forms an explosive opening, a statement of intent from Doherty the fit, focused bandleader. Conducting drummer Adam Ficek and tossing his titfer into the crowd, he is all whirling, stick-insect limbs. It is only with the new "Sedative" that the murmuring, introspective Pete reappears, for a song that seems to see his notorious life from the outside. "He was my hero," he sings sadly. "What's he like now?"
When a Union flag appears from somewhere, Doherty slips in a heartfelt snippet of "The White Cliffs of Dover", then begins his own English anthem, "Albion".Its list of place-names also allows Doherty to list half the towns in the North-east; though Sunderland's mention goes down like the Titanic, it puts every place he visits at Albion's heart.
"There She Goes (A Little Heartache)" and "Beg, Steal or Borrow" are among the new songs that address Doherty's recent travails. As he lines up with new guitarist Mick Whitnall and bassist Drew McConnell, Babyshambles seem more than ever a going concern. When they don't have to cover for Doherty, they are a tight, relentless rock unit, built on ferocious guitars and whip-crack drums.
Yet it is The Libertines' "Time for Heroes" that recalls Doherty's early, romantic promise. "I cherish you my love!" he bawls, perhaps to his old band- and soulmate Carl Barât. The song gives off a feeling of community regained.
A possibly ironic cover of The Stone Roses' "I Wanna Be Adored", then old single "Killamangiro" bring what's left of the house down. Then "Can't Stand Me Now", the Libertines' song about their drug-fuelled dissolution, finishes things. Its sentiment - "It's the worst it can possibly be" - is for tonight, at least, turned inside-out, into an affirmation of possible, fragile, better days ahead.
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