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The notorious Pete Doherty is in town, with his band Babyshambles. I’ve been told he has arrived at the venue and was earlier being pestered by photographers, whom he happily posed for despite calls for “more Pete, look this way, just one more”. So with that knowledge I presume he is going to appear on time. I feel relieved about this, as previously they’d kept fans waiting 90 minutes before they took to the stage. However I don’t think I was prepared for the mayhem which was to follow…..

The two support bands come and go, and the people now start to really pack em in, it’s sweltering hot and the air is filled with anticipation and excitement. The front rows are mainly young women who are all squashed in tight, trying to gain eye to eye contact with their idol, chanting over and over “Pete, Pete, Pete”. We wait patiently and eventually around 9.10pm I spy a camera flash going off sidestage….he is here…it won’t be long…...the band appear, followed by a dishevelled and intoxicated Doherty, swaying around….oh here we go!

They kick off with the first track ‘Delivery’ an older Babyshambles track. He’s half slurring and mumbling throughout the song and even struggles to play his guitar properly, instead thrashing it around, but the band play on, sideways glances are noted throughout. Meanwhile the fans are going crazy, there is no doubt he is the man, it’s obvious he can do no wrong in their eyes, in fact they almost expect this. Instantly I think this gig is not going to get any better. The expectations and anticipation I had soon turn to disappointment, tinged with sadness as I look at this incredibly creative man crumbling before me. My fellow photographers have all come prepared with hoods (except me) you just never know what to expect from a Babyshambles gig, but I soldier on and brave the beer throwing and continue to get some action shots. Its mayhem, and allegedly a camera gets broken by Pete grabbing, whether intentionally or being playful who knows? Several times he just misses falling over, and after the second song which is ‘Nothing Comes To Nothing’ he tells everyone this is their last song of the night, is he messing about or is that it, at least he's managed to retain his humour…


However the show goes on but gets much worst. What brought him to this state is anybody’s guess. Despite his issues with the dark stuff, he and the band have just released this amazing third album, ‘Sequel To The Prequel’ its been spinning and turning around in my head for days, with its punk, ska and countrified feel thrown in the mix. So to find the scenario unfolding before me was a massive disappointment, especially after reading that he is fighting fit and raring to go. I check around me, to gauge responses, some are dancing, smiling, looking bemused, egging him on, throwing clothes, and beer. However I see something different, it’s a sad day, not only for the band, but everyone who has worked hard to put this tour together, not forgetting the most important people the fans, who have paid £23 and more for a ticket to see Babyshambles and their new material played live for the first time.

The band themselves are on top form and are trying to hold it all together, but it’s a bit difficult when Pete is smashing his guitar into your drum kit whilst your playing, plus bashing the microphone on the floor or into his hands, waving it in the air, or tangling himself up in it. A couple of people manage to clamber onto the stage, and dance around, hug Pete, before being ejected, the stage by now is soaking wet, and surely a health and safety hazard. Doherty has drenched himself in beer, pouring it madly onto his head, and then drinking some before throwing it into the crowd. He wandered off stage at one point, a paused silence filled the air, is that it? He comes back again to try some more songs, but they end up being half sung, and many of the crowd are filling in the words for him. He hollers out “put your hands up if you’re a cunt”, plus he reckons Manchester always have the best nights out. There are some who may say this is rock n’ roll, but having experienced the original punk explosion and witnessed countless wild gigs, this was far from it. This shambolic performance certainly wasn’t one of Doherty’s finest hours. He is very talented, but tonight he just couldn’t deliver and he lost it big-time. For his legion of fans no doubt his status remains in tact, but I do know some of them were bitterly disappointed, felt cheated and angry. The finale was Pete totally smashing his guitar angrily at full pelt into the drum kit, then throwing his mic into the crowd….exit stage left..…the lights went up….the show is over! 

After the gig I didn’t want to write a review, which was negative, but it’s important to challenge and to be honest otherwise how can we make a difference? Let’s hope Doherty gives himself another kick up the arse and cleans up his act for the remainder of the tour and beyond, because a lot of people want to see him succeed where others have failed. We are rooting for you Pete if only you’ll listen and take note.

I guess the only way to look at it in the aftermath is to think of it as a moment in music history and say “I swear I was there”!


Set list:

(Not all the songs were played)

Nothing Comes To Nothing
The Blinding
The Man Who Came To Stay
Fall From Grace
Farmer’s Daughter
Dr No
Loyalty Song
8 Dead Boys
New Pair
Picture Me In A Hospital
Gang of Gin
Seven Shades
Fuck Forever

Review/photos by Melanie Smith - more photos here:

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