Babyshambles - Brixton Carling Academy

Song-writing, not performance, currently Doherty’s strong suit.

It’s a school night. Everyone has a hangover. Some have already whiteyed. What this crowd wants is excitement and a chance to jump around before double Geography swallows them whole in the morning. So support act Little Man Tate get a cheerful reception and set the audience up nicely for Pete Doherty's Babyshambles.

Here’s a talented songwriter who currently appears contractually obliged to perform live to feed the collective ego of his hangers-on. And tonight’s ramshackle offering of some old, some good newies, and the obligatory Libertines nod sounds like his handlers made him do it.

Getting started nearly on time is not often a bad sign but when Doherty is concerned it can signify a "no frills" event.

And after a low-key opening, things are temporarily stopped 3 songs in to allow security staff to calm a misguidedly rampant mosh-pit. Only fans already in his thrall feel the need to headbang to an average opening.

Serving up a few stodgy "Down In Albion" album tracks, newish single "The Blinding" is the first song to offer anything like fizzing entertainment. But it's The Libertines' breakthrough 7" "Time For Heroes" that gets the biggest roar pre-enchore. Though an unimaginative set-list is the least of Doherty’s worries.

Having lost original Babyshambles guitarist Patrick Walden last year, the balance of the group has edged from "Good-Band-Great-Frontman" to "No-Marks-and-a-(temporary)-Hasbeen". Struggling to spark any passion from his co-conspirators, Doherty performed his turn of exaggerated stumbles, inaudible slurs and amateur-band renditions of singalong tunes. There’s good stuff in there, if only we could hear it above the spirited but soulless high-school punk on offer.

Pete’s other half appears mid-set, pointedly introduced as “Miss Moss”. Delivering her backing vocals for “Le Belle et La Bete” with a decidedly wit-less prance, she and her boyfriend do at least offer some peculiar dynamism on stage.

Trying to remind everyone why he got famous in the first place, the heartbreaking melodic class of "For Lovers" is given a rare live outing. Being joined onstage by its co-writer Wolfman (shuffling like a whacked-out Lennon) brings some much needed variety and entertainment to the proceedings.

A swift encore lets "Albion" whirl out into the sold-out Academy for a passionate cry from the attendant fans and non-believers alike. Anyone who's ever been stood up at the clock-tower, or heard their parents arguing, knows how it feels. Songs this good should be heard by future generations. Like Ray Davies on horse.

Not much else from this pedestrian outing could dispel the nagging feeling that Doherty continues to punch below his weight and should make one knock-out acoustic album and move along. Even schoolies need to grow up.

Photo credit:
Jack Hynes

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