The Babyshambles - Jabez Clegg - 16.8.04

Why don't you turn off Eastenders and do something more interesting instead? Oops, you already had. You'd starting watching the rock n roll soap opera that is the Libertines. In fact we've spent that long pouring over fall outs and drama that we'd actually forgotten the reason we fell in love with the band in the first place. Pre-Libertines the UK music scene was a bloated mess of Coldplay and Starsailor and although the likes of Keane and the rejuvenated Snow Patrol still offer lumpen tosh you can't deny that the onslaught of The Others, Neils Children and the Paddingtons has been one hell of a rush. The fact that it was Pete Doherty who provided the inspiration for this new generation of bands make it even harder to watch the walking car crash we now witness.

7.30pm and the doors have yet to open. An hour passes and word reaches us that Pete has been spotted in Manchester. A welcome relief for all who had travelled the length and breadth of the country to watch this intimate Babyshambles show. The last time the Libertines played Manchester they sold out the nearby Academy 1, tonight Pete's out there on his own without long-term comrade Carl playing to 300 lucky fans. Fevered expectation brims throughout the night, the atmosphere is electric and even through the support bands there's sense that we're about to witness something special. After a storming set from the Paddingtons, Pete appears armed with just a fedora and a acoustic guitar. Within seconds of launching into an acoustic version of "Can't Stand Me Now" the crowd surges, the barriers crumble beneath the sheer force of it all and the speaker stack is held up by a 5 strong set of security guards. By the time he plays "Time For Heroes", the second song, the security have all but conceded it's a lost battle as the crowd invade the stage. Its folk music, music for the people, and never before has an acoustic guitar created such a kinetic rush of pure joy.

All this before the rest of the Babyshambles have even joined Pete on stage. Despite Doherty's well documented addictions the Babyshambles play tighter than i've ever seen the Libertines previously and when you consider there's barely a moment where the stage isn't falling apart around them this is no mean feat. "Do You Know Me?" and "Killamangiro" are particular highlights of an unforgettable night which ended with Pete beckoning the crowd onto the stage while the promoter desperately tried to diffuse the situation. And then the lights went on...and as that old adage goes where there is light there's hope. It may take time for Pete to fight the demons within, but there's a lot of support out there and i'd put money on it that Doherty's back in the Libertines fold in 6 months time.

Words: Alex McCann
Photo's by Karen McBride -

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