Dirty Pretty Things, Academy Two, Birmingham

Is there a Doherty in the house?
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The Independent Culture

The worst-case scenario for Dirty Pretty Things - essentially one faction of the disbanded Libertines - is that they're viewed as a Babyshambles who can actually play their instruments, and who actually show up on time. But, when contrasted with Pete Doherty, one of the crumbliest, flakiest screw-ups in the history of pop, there's a danger of DPT's Carl Barat (do you even know who he goes out with?) appearing to be a boring Mr Reliability, hooked on Horlicks instead of heroin.

The game might be up for Babyshambles. But Barat surely knows that just being Not Pete Doherty isn't going be enough. He's evidently aware of the need to rock it up a little, from the "You Fucking Love It" T-shirts on the merch stall to the blasts of scuzz classics such as New York Dolls' "Personality Crisis" and The Sonics' "Have Love Will Travel" on the warm-up mixtape, to the laddish spraying of beer, to the willingness to rip his top off and throw it into the front row (to girly screams), to that dreadful, dreadful name.

Dirty Pretty Things' first UK tour is coyly sticking to too-small venues - they could surely have filled the bigger of the Academy's two rooms, but expectations would have been magnified uncomfortably. Still, if I'm feeling déjà-vu tonight, on only the tour's second night, it's because I've seen The Libertines without Pete Doherty before, at not one but two Reading Festivals, when - either by choice or excommunication - he was absent. They felt like a three-legged chair.

With his silky black hair and black leather jacket, Barat steps out, flanked by two blokes (Antony Rossomando and Didz Hammond) who dress just like him and backed by Libertines drummer Gary Powell. The Lib Kids are out in force, and DPT surf through most of the show on sheer shared adrenalin. For what it's worth, they undeniably out-rock Babyshambles, and they're thankfully free of the weak white reggae.

On first hearing, DPT's songs are concerned with faith and faithlessness ("I don't believe in anything they tell me's set in stone", "give me something to die for") and life's ironies ("the very thing you strive for is the thing that leaves you blind"). Carl also still displays a fondness for archaic English ("so fare thee well", he bids), and still writes with the ersatz lowlife romanticism of a Strummer or a MacGowan. (I say "ersatz" advisedly; maybe it's wrong to read too much into surnames, but I've never bought the way Barat is painted as the proper prole to Pete's posho.)

The wildest reactions go to the handful of Libertines' songs: "Death On The Stairs", "France", "I Get Along". You can tell they're Libertines songs: the screams ring out, the hands go up, and the videophones start filming.

But even the Liber-teens know this isn't the real thing. They know that Pete plus Carl equals the optimum interface of dependability and danger. These two need to get back together, and soon. Not while the iron's hot (it's too late for that), but at least before it's turned to rust.

s.price@independent.co.uk

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