‘I long for a mediocre gig’, Peter Doherty told the NME during a recent video interview. Without agreeing or disagreeing, it isn’t hard to understand what journalist Andrew Trendell and Doherty talked about.
The general vibe of Peter Doherty’s gigs is usually at the extreme end of the spectrum; always creatively satisfying and somehow messy, if not lacking in structure or, by contrast, totally jam-packed with energy, attitude and vigour, and some structure.
However, the fact of the matter is that his shows remain super-compelling and comprise a strong element of surprise and spontaneity. His decadence, actions and the strokes of his genius continue to hold an appeal. There is a universal interest, and tonight’s set (May 12th) fits that aspect of the rule book entirely.
The effects of two energetic warm-up sets, one from Marc Eden and one from the Kilburn-based indie band Pynch, are an excited crowd fuelled by adrenaline since entering the doors of the Forum at 7pm. Greeted by a shouty but warm cheer, Peter Doherty & The Puta Madres go onstage and kick things off with the gypsy folk vibe of All At Sea, followed by the country music atmospherics of Hell To Pay At The Gates Of Heaven. Both songs serve to remind us all that Doherty solo is something else; it is no subtle version of The Libertines, it is very different, more mature and more outward-looking.
There is also a healthy chemistry in The Puta Madres resulting in a tight, varied sound. As a collective they have lots of instrumental interaction and engagement, mixed in with a sense of fun. Sometimes that involves all five of them, at other times just two of them. Jack ‘Trampolene’ Jones shines with his lead guitar parts and vocals showing depth and nuance.
The much wanted I Don’t Love Anyone and Kolly Kibber stimulate euphoria. Typically, Doherty fans are respectful, friendly with a large proportion knowing each other from Libertines and Trampolene shows. It is a community going the extra mile and beyond this evening, they know all the lyrics and cite them with confidence, and The Last Of The English Roses sets off what resembles a choir in full voice. A brief hedgehog toy ping pong between Doherty and a couple of fans ensures the depiction of topicality and humour. Not that his sets lack that aspect.
Wrapping things up with Paradise Is Under Your Nose, The Libertines’ You’re My Waterloo and Babyshambles anthems Albion and F**k Forever is just spot on. Doherty expresses disagreement when security tries to prevent a fan from crowd-surfing, and he lets the guy join him on stage.
There may still be plenty of chaos and unpredictability, but The Puta Madres’ shows manage to explore a different, lesser known side of the frontman, and this adds a new dimension to the music.
This is a fresh and dynamic setup, and if Doherty still wants a mediocre gig he certainly isn’t getting it this time.