Pete Doherty Live in Sheffield review by Rob Johnson
After years of turmoil, Pete Doherty appears to be a man at peace. His stage set up on a balmy spring night in Sheffield consists of an old leather sofa, a lampshade, and a guitar – there is a feeling that’s all the troubled troubadour needs these days. While the roadies are still setting up, the Libertines and Babyshambles frontman wanders on stage and lies down on the sofa for a while – seemingly oblivious to the fact that a show is taking place around him. It’s a typically unconventional entrance from an artist who has never courted the mainstream.
When Doherty does take the mic, it is to implore the crowd to stop shouting about how much they want to shower him with sexual favours and to run through new song ‘Night of the Hunter’ (the title a reference to the 1955 film of the same name). A run-through of ‘Hooligans on E’ follows (dedicated to Sheffield hero Paul Heaton who was “apparently a big hitter in his Sheffield United days” as Pete notes) before a riotous rendition of ‘Up the Bracket’ brings the house down. Doherty has a reputation as an inconsistent live performer, but it must be said that his voice sounds excellent tonight, despite the fact that he is clearly still recovering from a recent chest infection that resulted in shows in Manchester and Liverpool being postponed. Indeed, he eventually borrows an inhaler from someone in the crowd before lamenting that his voice will be “fucked” for the upcoming Royal Albert Hall show in a couple of days. It is a typically candid admission from a singer who has always prided himself on maintaining an intimacy with his fans.
More than any other track in his considerable arsenal, Babyshambles classic ‘Albion’ is Doherty’s mission statement and it is performed beautifully tonight. It is particularly poignant as Pete’s heavily pregnant wife joins him to play harmonica. Indeed, the show is a real family affair as the London singer’s dog Zeus wanders on stage at various junctures during the show as well.
‘Can’t Stand Me Now’ closes out the first part of the set with the adoring crowd singing the call and response part of the chorus usually provided by fellow Libertine Carl Barat. In these moments, we are reminded just how many great songs Doherty has written.
The second part of the set sees Pete in a ruminative mood with Babyshambles ballad “From Bollywood to Battersea” and refugee lament ‘Merry Old England’ rubbing shoulders with Libertines classics ‘I Get Along’ and ‘The Man Who Would be King’. It’s not all waifs and whimsy, however, rocking Babyshambles single ‘Killamangiro’ still sounds terrific with the audience roaring along to the refrain before the shoop de-lang-a-langs of ‘What Katie Did’ soar through the venue. The set closes out with an extended and emotionally charged version of Libertines classic ‘Time for Heroes’ which sees Pete joined onstage by one of his crew for the guitar solo, before the clearly appreciative singer leaves the stage to the crowd stamping their feet and chanting his name. It’s a fitting end to an electric evening.