Pete Doherty has changed his name. Gone is his self-proclaimed ‘evil twin’, who gave crack to cats and sprayed blood at journalists, replaced by the more reflective and poetic ‘Peter’ Doherty. The letter ‘r’ has emerged in time for the release of his long-awaited solo album, Grace/Wastelands, and has signaled a new sense of maturity and seriousness in his work. Yet it wasn’t ‘Peter’ that the crowd chanted for at the recently opened 02 Leeds Academy, it was the ‘Pete’ of old that the crowd wanted.
To satisfy the ‘Pete’ lovers in the audience, Doherty, starting out alone, opened with two Libertines songs. First, the early B-Side ‘The Delaney’ followed by ‘Music When The Lights Go Out’. The crowd, singing enthusiastically and enjoying the opportunity to reminisce his former glories, lapped them up. Both songs, however, were dispatched quickly and with little fuss. It was almost as though the singer was keen to get the formalities of playing Libertines songs over and done with in order to start playing his new songs as soon as possible.
Arcadie, the opener from the new album, was the chance for ‘Peter’ to shine, accompanied by indie-royalty Graham Coxon and half of Babyshambles. Doherty seemed much more relaxed once joined by his bandmates, spraying the crowd with Guinness and encouraging them to clap along to the songs jaunty tune. ‘Last Of The English Roses’ was even more of a revelation, its infectious dub-beat filling the room while Doherty sang about an old childhood sweetheart. The presence of Coxon clearly has a positive effect on Doherty, inspiring him to sing and play with conviction, determined to prove himself as one Britain’s best singer/songwriters.
The set dipped during ‘1939 Returning’ and ‘A Little Death Around The Eyes’, the next two songs from Grace/Wastelands. These songs highlight the hit and miss nature of Doherty’s solo album. However, the best parts of the album were even more brilliant on stage, given extra depth by the two violinists’ that joined the band and also by Coxon’s amazing guitar playing that added some raw aggression to Doherty’s tales of heartbreak and addiction. ‘Palace of Bone’, with its swaggering rhythm and random guitar screeches, gave the crowd an excuse to get moving after the dip in pace.
Being a fan of Doherty’s can be infuriatingly frustrating because of his tendency to act like the divvy he sings about in ‘What A Waster’, and often the appeal of Doherty is hard to see through all the tabloid headlines and farcical stories about his personal life. But it is because of his ability to write a song that sounds fresh and exciting every time you hear it that he first gained attention, albeit with the help of his fellow Libertines, and it is when he plays these songs that it becomes clear why he is revered by so many. Those in the audience who were unfamiliar with the new solo-work, of which there were notably a few, were rewarded for their perseverance when Doherty brought out some more of this older material, mixing both Libertines and Babyshambles songs.
‘Killamangiro’, one of Babyshambles’ first hits, inspired a mass sing-along amongst the crowd and ‘Beg, Steal or Borrow’ kept up this momentum. Clearly chuffed with the crowd’s reaction, Doherty sprayed more of his Guinness upon those at the front and thanked them for coming out for a second time.
The real highlight of the set came in ‘Time For Heroes’, still the best song Doherty has ever written. The opening chords sparked frenzy amongst those in the audience and each lyric was sung back at Doherty, who was by now clearly enjoying himself. With this, the band left the stage and returned to play two more songs, the impressive B-Side ‘Through The Looking Glass’ and routine set-closer ‘Fuck Forever’. The crowd, aware that this was their last chance to kick the shit out of each other, screamed along with Doherty to the very last bit of guitar feedback.
There’s no doubt that Doherty is eager to show his talent to those that dismiss him as the car-crash that he tends to be portrayed as in the tabloids. Performances like this show what a versatile musician he is, with the ability to write lilting acoustic ballads as well as far more intense sounding songs, which makes watching him play endlessly engrossing. With Doherty now able to satisfy both the Pete and the Peter inside him, it may be that we see less of the infamous Pete Doherty and more of the Peter Doherty that deserves to be famous.