It must have been scientifically proven – at some stage – that music always sounds better as a shared, communal experience. Unfortunately, only one lonely (but lovely) State correspondent is present to document tonight’s show. In the awkward interim, entertainment was procured through the observation of the curious effect which Pete(r) Doherty has had upon the fashion senses of his followers. Having managed to bring gaudy Rosary beads and Worzel Gummidge heroin chic into vogue amongst the young and the godless, it can only be assumed that if a suspicious vat of kool-aid were to be produced during tonight’s show, there’d be more than a few fanatics craning to fill their trilbies.
But it’s not difficult to see the rationale behind this level of adulation. Excepting the fact that Doherty has released several quality records, behaves like an outdated clichÃ©-laden rockstar, and leaves behind a trail of mythology in every town he visits, there are many other things to admire about him. For example: he’s still alive and he’s not in jail.
In another couple of acts of prejudice-beating, not only does he strut onstage at precisely 9pm, but he also looks like he might be the most sober man in the house. Whether it’s because he’s without band or without something else, he immediately presents a less boorish side of himself to us, as – barely acknowledging the attention-seeking crowd – he begins to meekly strum out ‘The Ha Ha Wall’ on his acoustic guitar.
Flawed and introverted, if it weren’t for the thousand devotees yelling out every word, the thirty year old man in the limelight could well be mistaken for some teenager just playing some song he likes in his bedroom. During the 90 minute set, only once does he address the crowd, when he admirably snubs the tired and contradictory tradition of the planned encore by honestly requesting a quick cigarette break. Otherwise, it almost seems like he’s playing for himself, with a nonchalance which could be mistaken for boredom.
An increasing amount of clothes, notes and demos land at Pete’s feet throughout the show, hurled by fans desperate to be tonight’s ‘That Guy’. Like any good parent, Doherty treats every ‘gift’ equally, allowing each one a curious glance and a respectful nod. Some people are less able to contain their jelly brained excitement though, aborting their night in a vain effort to make it past five beefy bouncers.
Meanwhile, Doherty’s playing the hits. Eschewing a backing band for the episodic appearance of a pair of freestyling ballerinas, he likeably shambles through his entire canon of modern British classics. With his ever-apparent songwriting prowess on display, these skeletal renditions also reveal a peculiar timelessness achieved through his stylistic imbuement of Britpop, 60’s pop, showtunes, folk and punk.
‘Fuck Forever’, ‘What Katie Did’, ‘For Lovers’, ‘Time For Heroes’, ‘What A Waster’, ‘Can’t Stand Me Now’, ‘Albion’… every song played tonight is not just familiar… it’s an anthem; but far more articulate and memorable than we’ve come to expect from some of England’s brain-dead and loutish popular anthems. Doherty has become an icon to a new breed of youth, inspiring each one to read the books he’s read, wear the clothes he wears, visit the places he’s been, listen to the music he listens to, and – inevitably – try their hand at writing the songs he’s written. But despite the cheap wave of mimicry and mediocrity which he and The Libertines provoked (and his paparazzi-fodder way of life), a night like tonight marks him out as a true original and a 21st century survivor.