Babyshambles, Live at the Manchester Academy

As the crowd waits, the apprehension builds. This is, after all, the infamous Babyshambles; no-one can be sure if they’ll actually turn up. In fact, it takes an hour and ten minutes before Doherty eventually saunters on stage with a wry “What time do you call this then?”. But the crowd doesn’t mind; when the band launches into ‘Pipedown’, we are swept forwards, and at the same time the entire venue turns hysterical.

It would be difficult to overstate just how much the crowd worship Pete Doherty and as the band tear through their set, I too begin to love him. The man’s charm is infectious. He skips around the stage in a state of complete nonchalance, obviously enhanced by illicit substances. He attempts to grab every crowd surfer who tries to break through the bouncers. He knocks himself and Patrick Walden over and ends up singing on the floor. He and Walden pick a fight with a bouncer during ‘Killamangiro’, which ends with them squaring up on stage. It’s the sort of behaviour which should make you agree with the tabloid readers who write him off, but you don’t – instead, you join the masses cheering him on.

In fact, I can’t help but feel sorry for the rest of the band. Walden, the guitarist, is also a fine stage performer (also looking as fucked as Pete), but no-one cares. The drummer, who obviously fails to indulge as excessively as the front pair, begins to flag after ‘Fuck Forever’, but Pete continues. Babyshambles live up (or down?) to their name when they seem to run out of songs; Doherty begins to jam, often with only himself, trying out each instrument. This should be boring as hell, but it’s not. The house lights come up but an electric Doherty won’t stop; the crowd continues to surge in waves, reaching out to him. It’s not until the bouncers line up on the stage-side that Babyshambles finally call it a night, and even then Doherty seems reluctant to leave. Clichéd as it may sound, and despite everything, on stage at least, Pete Doherty is a giant.

Reviewed by Mike McGovern

26/02/06

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