If anyone’s written off Peter Doherty, it’s not his fans. The atmosphere in the packed O2 Academy even before Doherty came on stage was electric. He emerged to rapturous cheers, ending the shouts of ‘We want Pete’ which had commenced a quarter of an hour before he was even due to appear. He’d teased the crowd by appearing at the stage door, topless with his trademark trilby perched on his head, to watch the first support act, who must have been bemused at the sudden roars. It was a relief to know that he was in the house, notorious as he is for non-appearances and showing up hours late for gigs, but this was the first sign that Peter Doherty means business.
Many artists would have found it hard to sustain an hour and a half of acoustic set, alone on stage, but not the confident Doherty, who had the crowd hanging off his every chord. With his only solo album to date, Grace/Wastelands, released in 2009, this gig formed more of a showcase of Doherty’s lifetime work – alongside his solo tunes the set was largely made up of old Babyshambles songs and Libertines classics, including amongst other hits a powerful ‘Don’t Look Back Into The Sun’, ‘Can’t Stand Me Now’ and ‘Music When The Lights Go Out’. A rendition of ‘What Katie Did’ was initiated by the crowd, who chanted the chorus while Doherty relaxed before finally joining in. He blended snippets of songs into each other, with plenty of instrumental jamming, eyes closed with a peaceful smile.
He was joined on stage rather incongruously by a pair of flamboyant ballerinas, turning the show into a visual as well as musical spectacle. He milked the crowd unabashedly, posing while one of the ballerinas fanned him with her paper fan, and disappeared for ten full minutes towards the end of the set.
Upon his return he was joined by the harmonica player from the support band, and together they managed to turn ‘Albion’ into a rendition of ‘Twist and Shout’. He disappeared once more, making the most of the crowd’s adulation, before returning and finally finishing with an epic ‘Fuck Forever’. Doherty knows how to give a crowd a good time, and if the flawed genius is focused now on indulging his genius rather than his flaws, then the future looks bright.