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, had 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 toured the festivals this summer, grinding out an audience for themselves, Barat often looking weary from the task.
This one-off gig, then, on a stormy, humid south London night, served 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, apparently) almost derailed that as guest host Russell Brand got the brunt of a building chorus of boos. Barat's gleeful rugby tackling of the comedian from stage left, and 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 has no more challenge, or partner at centre stage, he barrels into latter-day cohorts Didz Hammonds and Anthony Rossomando in a rough sort of stage democracy going back to Jagger and Richards.
The lyrics of shabby, post-war British bohemianism which gave the Libertine's post-clash punk its addictive flavour, and which Dirty Pretty Things have added to with songs such as "Gin and Milk" 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 played so hard and fast it almost goes off the rails, it seems churlish to complain.
Paul Weller is another special guest, puffing a fag as furiously as his new bandmates, and greeted mightily 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 back for the encore though, for his first performance of "In the City" in 26 years. Frustratingly, he holds back from singing until the very end. Still, he's added to the event, and it's fitting that he doesn't distract from Barat, a man who deserves the spotlight.
Though he lacks the somewhat knowing visible suffering of Doherty he 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 crowd being the defining characteristic of both his bands).
And the fanfare introducing Dirty Pretty Things' "Bang Bang Your Dead" is deserved, a pop diamond during a genuinely idealistic night: factors which should secure Barat a future.Reuse content