It is fair to say that Pete Doherty is a musician who has had his troubles over the years. A lot of them due to unnecessary victimisation by tabloid newspapers who have painted a picture of a man that is not the true version of who Pete Doherty really is. Despite these troubles and the way he has been perceived by those who haven’t taken the time to get to know him or his music, there is no escaping the fact that this is a man who has a devoted following. Fans who have been there on every step of his journey, been there through the highs and the lows and have never lost their love for one of the most talented musicians of the last twenty-five years.
On this very wet July night Tramshed in Cardiff was full of those followers. This was a night to celebrate Pete and be grateful for the music this man has given us. The stage was set with two brown chairs, a brown wooden table, a microphone, and a houseplant. The venue had been turned into a seated room to help create the mood for a laid-back evening to hear stories and songs that have changed the lives of so many. There was no support, Pete took to the stage with Matt Wilkinson (Apple Music / former NME Journalist) and the first comment to make is just how happy and content Pete appeared. It seems that Pete has reached a stage in life where he does not feel that he has anything to prove, he does not have to worry about being snapped by the paparazzi, he is enjoying life with his partner and recently becoming a dad again. He made reference to his six-week-old baby, showed a photo of the baby to the crowd and made a comment on how much he is looking forward to being present for his child this time round.
The night was full of interesting conversation with Matt Wilkinson who was the perfect host for the evening. It was clear that Pete and Matt had a lot of love and respect for each other. There was no awkwardness, Matt was obviously a massive Libertines fan, referring to the Libertines forum and early demos. There was no firm script for the night, a lot of it was unprompted and off the cuff with Pete grabbing his acoustic guitar whenever the moment took him and launching into songs. We had a variety of songs from Pete’s extensive back catalogue including Death on The Stairs, Dilly Boys, Beg Steal or Borrow, Gunga Din, In Love With a Feeling.
It was a real joy to hear all these songs again, special mention has to go to Time For Heroes, a song that has had a massive impact on my life. It was the soundtrack to so many nights out during the early 2000’s it made me feel 10ft tall, it made me feel that the night was ours and anything was possible. Pete sung this song with so much emotion, and the crowd enthusiastically sung back every word. Pete told the story which many of us know how this song was inspired from Pete’s experience of being present at the May Day riots in London in 2001. The interesting part of this story was how Pete wrote the song originally as a folky song, gave it to Carl and it then was turned into the song we know and love. Pete commented how his partnership with Carl made each other better versions of themselves, and that is what all great song writing partnerships (and partnerships in life) are about, making each other’s songs better, and making each other better versions of ourselves.
We were also treated to a version of Albion, arguably the greatest song Pete has ever written. I loved the story of how old this song is. We were told how Albion started in a band that Pete had in school years before the Libertines. Music When The Lights Go Out was also warmly welcomed by the crowd tonight, singing along without a care in the world.
Other stories Pete shared with us during the night included his early experiences of music, from his mum playing him songs as a baby through to the first time he went to a football match and was more interested in watching and listening to the crowd. As someone who also went to football from a young age this is something that resonated with me. I too was always fascinated by the ebb and flow of the crowd and the songs that were sung on the terraces (still am now). We heard how Pete fell in love with The Stone Roses, was riding his bike to school listening on his Walkman to Where Angels Play and this was the moment that he knew he had to be in a band. We had stories of the time that The Libertines supported The Sex Pistols and how Pete had heard that Johnny Rotten loved Steptoe and Son. Pete took this one step further and started following Johnny Rotten around the backstage area holding a ghetto blaster playing the theme tune from Steptoe and Son. The impression that Pete did of Johnny Rotten had the crowd in stitches. During the conversation Pete perfectly put the crowd in its place. Following cheers that went up when Pete mentioned Kate (Moss), the response from Pete was “Shall we talk about your ex?”.
The characters from the Libertines stories were all mentioned including Scarborough Steve and Bill Bones, all of these characters conjure up those images and memories of the early days of The Libertines, many of the myths and legends that contributed to this fantastic journey that the band took us on. Tonight was not just a trip down memory lane, we also had a nod to the future with an airing of a new Libertines song, Night of The Hunter, and confirmation that the new album is recorded and waiting for when it can be released, hopefully early next year. Pete also talked about other projects he is involved in including his record label Strap Originals.
As the night ended Tramshed was a venue full of love and warmth. Pete thanked everyone for attending, he has always seen everyone as being equal, there has never been an us and them vibe. He was in no rush to leave, tried to embrace as many as he could, including me. As I was close to the front there was no way I could leave without a handshake, I reached my hand out and Pete warmly responded with a handshake. If every you hear a bad word said about Pete Doherty, please defend the man, he is a talented musician who has always had a good soul and a lot of love within. This is a man who we all need to continue to love and cherish.
“If you lose your faith in love and music the end won’t be long”