Babyshambles, Kentish Town Forum, London
Friday 16 May 2008
Engagements between jail-time played to hardcore loyalists can't have been EMI's dream when they signed Babyshambles. But the glamour of Pete Doherty's notoriety is the most dispensable part of his ongoing drama. This first gig since Wormwood Scrubs includes all the other reasons the fans remain; the whiff of dangerous unpredictability mixes headily with genuine talent, making for a gripping spectacle.
Doherty enters looking a little more crumpled and uncertain of his moves than in his recent past. Babyshambles have been professionally "clean", potent and well drilled for nearly two years, and they stay so for a while. "Pipedown" rides on Mick Whitnall's high, querulous guitar and the punch of bass and drums. "Beg, Steal or Borrow" has the innocence of an early Sixties beat group. The bad feeling and betrayal in a Doherty lyric such as "UnBiloTitled" is trampled by speedy, huskily sung Who-style R&B. Doherty's most unique talent – for an endless gush of arcane English – becomes irrelevant.
The appearance of a top-hatted Shane MacGowan, a study in survival, makes Doherty leap with pleasure during a frisky "Dirty Old Town". But his mumbled stumble through Squeeze's "Cool for Cats" lights the touchpaper; the song seems about to sputter out, but Doherty keeps jerking it back into life before a dub, reverb-drenched, downhill careen into "Side of the Road". The penitent good behaviour of last year's arena tour and Shotter's Nation album is ditched, and the high-wire games begin.
Expanding, heavy near-instrumental thunder is followed by "Killamangiro", pulled open by a squeal of guitar; then, a promisingly melodic new song. "Crumb Begging Baghead" sees Doherty fall into a spidery crouch. "Albion" begins in shaky intimacy, and ends in a scorching organ solo, the song between (his best) given over to the crowd. The increasing risk of falling apart is the point.
And on "Fuck Forever", that danger becomes physical. As the crowd start a maul, one besuited stage invader drives Doherty back to the drum riser. While the man fights the crew on stage, Doherty lets out a wolfman howl and drags another fan on. True chaos seems imminent, but Doherty is able to conduct it. The chorus kicks in, the frenzy redoubles – and safety returns. Doherty ends the song bedraggled and jacketless, salutes his fans and leaves to a scream of guitar. He's given a glimpse of what rock was once for.
ReviewThese heroes in a half shell should have been left in hibernation
Sek, k'athjilari! (That’s “yes, definitely” to non-native speakers).TV
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Jack the Ripper: Scientist who claims to have identified notorious killer has 'made serious DNA error'
- 2 Banksy arrest hoax: Internet duped by fake report claiming street artist's identity has been revealed
- 3 Are you ready for Crazy Doritos, the red-hot snack food craze sweeping Mexico’s streets?
- 4 Drink alcohol and eat meat to improve male fertility - but cut down on coffee, studies suggest
- 5 Former East 17 frontman Brian Harvey turns up at Downing Street and 'demands to speak to Prime Minister'
Breaking Bad season 6 is still not happening
Doctor Who, Flatline - review: Clara isn’t half bad as the Time Lord
Downton Abbey review series 5, episode 5: Period drama falls disappointingly flat
Star Wars memorabilia called a 'bit of plastic' on Antiques Roadshow by Fiona Bruce valued at £50,000
Fury, film review: Brad Pitt is intriguing as unsympathetic war hero
Cameron is warned 'no possibility' of UK reducing immigration and that bid to bring in quota on migrant workers would be illegal
Residents should throw a street party and mix with immigrant neighbours, councils told
Russell Brand threatened with arrest after filming outside Fox News headquarters
Amal Alamuddin calls for the return of the Elgin Marbles from Britain: 'Injustice has persisted for too long'
London bus driver 'kicks gay couple off for kissing'
Lord Freud: Tory welfare minister apologises after saying disabled people are 'not worth’ the minimum wage