Pete is a performer infamous for, among other things, keeping his audiences waiting. The long pause in entertainment that precludes his arrival has come to be expected.
But much to everyone’s surprise, ten minutes before Pete’s stage time, someone emerges. And it’s not who this crowd was waiting for.
It is a slightly overweight, balding, red-haired 40-something comedian. The moment he opens his mouth to reveal a mild Glaswegian accent, he is interrupted by shouts of ‘I can’t understand you’, ‘who are you?’ and the ever so intelligent, ‘you fat bastard’.
Drinks rain down on him as he provokes the audience with taunts of ‘you can throw as much as you like – you’ll never hit me’. Eventually, the stage manager is forced to intervene. “I’ve just been told to get to fuck,” explains the brave stand-up, and the crowd cheer in approval. The lesson in all this: never get between Pete Doherty fans and their hero.
It might represent a change in attitude, or it might have been down to the panic rising within the stage manager, but the main man appears a mere 20 minutes late. He doesn’t say a word, but begins strumming his way through a very retro set on an acoustic guitar that provides his only accompaniment.
The beauty of tracks from ancient Babyshambles demos like Arcady, East Of Eden and New Love Grows On Trees is revealed as they are kept light and simple, and Pete’s ever-charming husky voice is still filled with all the passion of those original recordings.
The additional accompaniment of ballet dancers to songs like The Last Of The English Roses and What Katie Did might sound pretentious, but only adds to their romantic elegance.
Even in their acoustic state, Libertines favourites like Don’t Look Back Into The Sun and Up The Bracket cause carnage down the front. There is something exciting and uplifting about hearing them performed live so soon after a quite definite announcement of the end of The Libertines.
Pete plays for almost two hours, stopping only to read letters of adoration passed to him by swooning fans. He seems to do it not out of arrogance, but of attentiveness and appreciation.
It all ends with a sing-along to Pete’s favourite audience-participation song – Albion. The Lipstick Melodies’ lead singer is brought on stage to play harmonica, while the punters yell the names of their hometowns in the hope that Peter might grace them with the honour of including them in the chorus.
The depth of almost religious adoration Pete’s fans have for him is pretty much unparalleled in the world of alternative music, and tonight has proved he’s got the material to justify it.
But such a vintage setlist does raise questions of whether he’s got the guts and the talent to match it with something new.
By Sophie Armour