Dirty Pretty Things' leader, Carl Barat, is trapped in a predicament beyond his control. The tabloid notoriety of his one-time Libertines bandmate, Pete Doherty, has made a man who was once his blood brother an albatross round his neck. Nothing Barat does with his new band can eclipse Doherty's public self-destruction. More damagingly, like most great songwriting duos, neither man has yet matched their past together. Still, Dirty Pretty Things have become festival fixtures this summer, Barat often looking weary from the task.
This one-off gig, then, on a stormy, humid south London night, serves two purposes. It is a fundraiser for the Make Roads Safe charity, after three of the band's teenage fans were killed driving back from a gig. It is also an opportunity for Dirty Pretty Things to state their own case for rock'n'roll greatness. A half-hour delay (equipment problems) almost derails that, as guest host Russell Brand gets the brunt of a building chorus of boos. Barat's gleeful rugby-tackling of the comedian from stage-left, and a short, sharp blast through "You Fucking Love It", is the explosive announcement that the show will go on.
Dirty Pretty Things' album, Waterloo to Anywhere, is then pumped full of speed, stripped to its garage-rock essentials, and played with a sort of spindly, skeletal grace. Though Barat no longer has a challenger, or partner, at centre-stage, he careens into latter-day cohorts Didz Hammond and Anthony Rossomando in a rough sort of stage democracy going back to Jagger and Richards. The lyrics of shabby, post-war British bohemianism that gave The Libertines' Clash-aping punk its addictive flavour, and which Dirty Pretty Things have added to, are mostly squashed by velocity and volume. The slurring Barat's occasional swigs from a bottle of red wine may not be unconnected. But when "The Enemy" is being played so hard and fast it almost tumbles off the rails, it seems churlish to complain.
Paul Weller is another special guest, greeted as a still-contemporary great, surely on the basis of The Jam alone. He adds some muscle on guitar, then leaves the stage with visible reluctance. He's swiftly back for the encore, for his first performance of "In the City" in 26 years. Frustratingly, he holds back from singing it till its very end. Still, he's added to the event, and it's fitting that he doesn't distract from Barat.
Though he lacks Doherty's somewhat knowing, visible suffering, Barat has his own demons, and commitment to expressing them through music. He gathers himself to give a decent tribute to his dead fans (love for their crowds being the defining characteristic of both his bands). And the brass fanfare introducing Dirty Pretty Things' "Bang Bang You're Dead" is deserved, a pop diamond during a genuinely idealistic night: factors that should ensure Barat a future.Reuse content