Pete Doherty, Barfly, London

The return of prodigal Pete

With a roar that was as much triumphant as relieved, the audience greeted the ex-Libertine more as homecoming hero than a prodigal son. After two London no-shows, Pete Doherty finally made the stage.

Last week's thunderstorms were nothing compared to the tempests that have battered the singer that was, and could be again, half of one of rock's most compelling relationships, with writing partner Carl Barat.

Doherty's being caught driving without a licence, and in possession of a flick knife a couple of months ago was the final straw for the band. Having already failed to heed their warning to shake off his drug habit, the rest of the Libertines ejected Doherty until he had fully recovered.

His own idea of rehabilitation, though, was a series of chaotic solo dates. Doherty was due to play this same venue last Monday, but stormed out at 11pm when a bouncer refused to admit his guitar technician. The next evening, he again failed to show in support of Wolfman, the writer with whom he collaborated on the biggest hit for a Libertine to date, the languorous "For Lovers".

Despite his repeated non- appearances, fans turned out in force to the upstairs room of a pub in Camden, with tickets changing hands online for around £50. Doherty forced his way through the mob that wanted to touch him in the manner of tweenies assaulting Busted. Despite his well-publicised problems, he still cut a dash in blue suit and matching polo shirt, a trilby perched precariously on the back of his head. His face, though, told a different story. The only colour was the bags under his eyes.

Throughout all of his problems, Doherty has argued that his only true addiction is to performance. Band mates dispute this, but with acoustic guitar in hand he commanded attention for just over an hour. The west London troubadour oozed charm from every pore, with a laid-back manner that made the evening more of a free-form happening than a gig.

His fluid guitar style made for some ropy attempts at solos, while the voice faltered on slower numbers, though he always pulled himself together for more forceful songs. Performing in front of a dedicated crowd, Doherty avoided obvious numbers from The Libertines' debut album, Up the Bracket. Instead, he drew from their forthcoming follow-up, to show how he and Barat had focused their writing skills on catchy pop tunes such as "Don't Be Shy" and "Ha Ha Wall".

Rarer Libertines numbers and his own songs proved just as strong, while Doherty made the occasional cover version his own. You had to double-take when you realised that the "One Last Love Song" that he dedicated to Barat was a Beautiful South song. Doherty paused to read a poem written for him by one of the band's younger fans, a Libertinie. The crowd hushed to hear a reasonable sixth-form effort that had Doherty as a "tin man" and wearing "donkey's ears".

Doherty was, on occasion, unfocused, drifting from the microphone stand even on new songs. You wondered how much he missed his on-stage foil. Later on, he called up one of the audience to play harmonica. He was clearly no substitute for Barat, something that Doherty acknowledged as he shoulder-charged the interloper from the mic. There were also signs of paranoia as Doherty attempted to wrench as perfect a sound as possible from the PA. "Are you doing this on purpose?" he demanded of the venue's sound man, staring at him in an accusing fashion.

For the anthemic "Time for Heroes", with its vision of stylish kids at riots, fans piled on stage. Doherty sang from the floor before he escaped through a side exit, swapping his shirt for a fan's football top in the colours of his beloved Queens Park Rangers.

Meanwhile, the rest of the audience left satisfied to have seen their own hero in such a small venue. With Barat and Doherty together, though, The Libertines would be much more compelling. The fans' adulation only widens the rift between him and his fellow visionaries.

Arts and Entertainment
British author Helen Macdonald, pictured with Costa book of the year, 'H is for Hawk'
booksPanel hail Helen Macdonald's 'brilliantly written, muscular prose' in memoir of a grief-stricken daughter who became obsessed with training a goshawk
Arts and Entertainment
Tom DeLonge has announced his departure from Blink-182

music
Arts and Entertainment
The episode saw the surprise return of shifty caravan owner Susan Wright, played by a Pauline Quirke (ITV)

Review: Broadchurch

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Ava DuVernay and David Oyelowo are teaming up for a Hurricane Katrina drama

film
Arts and Entertainment
Just folk: The Unthanks

music
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
In the picture: Anthony LaPaglia and Martin Freeman in 'The Eichmann Show'

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Anne Kirkbride and Bill Roache as Deirdre and Ken Barlow in Coronation Street

tvThe actress has died aged 60
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Marianne Jean-Baptiste defends Joe Miller in Broadchurch series two

tv
Arts and Entertainment
The frill of it all: Hattie Morahan in 'The Changeling'

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny may reunite for The X Files

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Clarkson, left, and Richard Hammond upset the locals in South America
TV
News
A young woman punched a police officer after attending a gig by US rapper Snoop Dogg
people
Arts and Entertainment
Reese Witherspoon starring in 'Wild'

It's hard not to warm to Reese Witherspoon's heroismfilm
Arts and Entertainment
Word up: Robbie Coltrane as dictionary guru Doctor Johnson in the classic sitcom Blackadder the Third
books

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscar nominations are due to be announced today

Oscars 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Hacked off: Maisie Williams in ‘Cyberbully’

Maisie Williams single-handedly rises to the challenge

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne in The Theory of Everything and Benedict Cumberbatch in The Imitation Game are both nominated at the Bafta Film Awards
Arts and Entertainment

Academy criticised after no non-white actors nominated

Arts and Entertainment
Damian Lewis shooting a scene as Henry VIII in Wolf Hall
TV

Arts and Entertainment
A history of violence: ‘Angry, White and Proud’ looked at the rise of far-right groups

tv

An expose of hooliganism masquerading as an ideological battle

Arts and Entertainment

art

Lee Hadwin can't draw when he's awake, but by night he's an artist

Arts and Entertainment

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Michael Keaton in the 1998 Beetlejuice original

film

Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman and David Tennant star in 'Broadchurch'

TV

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

    Greece elections

    In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
    Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

    Holocaust Memorial Day

    Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
    Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

    Magnetic north

    The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness
    Homeless Veterans appeal: Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story
    Front National family feud? Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks

    Front National family feud?

    Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks
    Pot of gold: tasting the world’s most expensive tea

    Pot of gold

    Tasting the world’s most expensive tea
    10 best wildlife-watching experiences: From hen harriers to porpoises

    From hen harriers to porpoises: 10 best wildlife-watching experiences

    While many of Britain's birds have flown south for the winter, it's still a great time to get outside for a spot of twitching
    Nick Easter: 'I don’t want just to hold tackle bags, I want to be out there'

    'I don’t want just to hold tackle bags, I want to be out there'

    Nick Easter targeting World Cup place after England recall
    DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

    The inside track on France's trial of the year

    Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
    As provocative now as they ever were

    Sarah Kane season

    Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
    Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

    Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

    Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
    Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

    Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

    One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
    The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

    The enemy within

    People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
    'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

    'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

    Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
    Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

    Autumn/winter menswear 2015

    The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore