Monday, 15 October 2007

Thekla, Bristol, October 13th, 2007 - By Alice Bigelow

Thekla, Bristol, October 13th, 2007
Or Adam Fieck’s Treasure Hunt


Whilst I have considerable sympathy with Adam Fieck’s desire to keep the red tops away from Babyshambles gigs, and as much enthusiasm as the next person for a good treasure hunt, the sequence of threads on French Dog Writtles, several initiated by Adam, greeting me this afternoon with the heading ‘Blank’, stretched my research skills rather more than I would have wished.
OK, we got it, there was to be a gig tonight. Well, we had been waiting, hadn’t we, little posts from Adam earlier this week with, ‘something’s coming’ had us primed. OK, we understood, this was all to be rather hush hush. Keep the tabs out. But, bloody hell, the post this morning with details was up for something like four minutes. During which time, of course, I was doing something else.
Still, with a lot of perseverance, considerable numbers of texts flying back and forth, pathetic pleas for information via PM to all and sundry on FDW, and the invaluable help of several kind people, I eventually discovered it was scheduled for a boat in Bristol at midnight. So, game for anything, off we headed, with more than a snitch of trepidation that we might do six hours of driving for nothing.
Three hours and several loops around Bristol city centre later, we found said boat, paid our out-of-London-admission (£5 – as opposed to £20 for a similar gig in Soho in July), and had a look around. Several bars, a big deck at the back for smokers, and a very boat-like room in the hull, probably with a 150-200 capacity. Bar prices to match the admission. Cheap. Whoopee. Sadly couldn’t take full advantage due to said mega-drive, but makes you feel you have had a bargain. And so it proved to be. In every way.
Just before eleven, we parked ourselves on the edge of the small stage, settling down to wait, imagining that we might be there for quite a while before anything began to happen….if anything was going to happen. Consequently, it was with great relief, as always, to see Adam appear on stage around half eleven and begin setting up. Joined by Drew, the two showed every sign of preparing to play. Then, somewhat to our surprise, Alan Wass wandered onto the stage, and tuned and tested two guitars. We wondered if he was going to perform, if Mik was not around, but no, it appeared that he was stand-in guitar tech for the evening.
Right on time, they appeared on stage, and after a moment or two, launched into Delivery. With high energy and a level of precision unlike many ad hoc Shambles gigs, they were tight as Shotters’ Nation. With few words to the heaving crowd, they played a short, wonderful set, consisting of Baddie’s Boogie, You Talk, Unbilotitled, Sedative, The Blinding, and Beg, Steal or Borrow. And then, as abruptly as they had come on, they left. Well, to be precise, Pete left, and the others, clearly not expecting the set to end quite so quickly, looked confused, shrugged, gathered up their kit and followed him off.
Pete was on amazing form. He looked great. Personally, I am of the school that prefers him full of face to the beautiful-but-gaunt-heroin-chic. He looked young, almost as he did four or five years ago. And CLEAN….I don’t mean clean as in drugs-free, though he clearly looked that….no, I mean clean as in his hands were clean, and his lips were unchapped, and one didn’t have an urge to push him into the nearest tub for a good long soak. And the difference didn’t end there. Dior suits possibly in storage somewhere, or maybe just not quite right for the moment, he was scruffily dressed – old, rather stained jeans, a grey t-shirt, a somewhat crumpled and ink stained grey-speckled jacket and no jewellery. Aside, that is, from the gold band on his left hand, presumably the much talked about one to match that worn by Irina, who stood by the side of the stage for the whole set. Everything about him, from his controlled body-language (no rag-doll flopping tonight) to his fine, fine singing, announced that this was a different version of the Pete Doherty we have all grown accustomed to.
But some things don’t change. And thank god for that. He dove off the stage twice into the intense, pushing, grabbing crowd. The first time, unfortunately for me, (or fortunately depending upon how you see it), on top of me, and as the crowd swayed to the side under his long, and not insubstantial form, I was pushed onto my back on the floor, providing Pete-cushioning. All very well for him, the crowd supported him back onto the stage, and then closed around me in their previous sardine-like formation, leaving me bleating rather pathetically on the floor, unable to move, legs somewhere under a different set of feet from the top half of me. There was a rather scary moment, when, having managed to sit up, I kept prodding and grabbing at the legs around me, and no one paid me any mind. Then, finally, a couple of lads spotted me and helped me get to my feet(ish). By the time the next dive came one song later, I was more prepared, and gripped the stage and the people next to me firmly, managing to stay upright.
It was a funny old crowd. More oblivious than most. I later heard that Pete had been trying to haul people up who had fallen over in his wake up as he was being lifted back onto the stage. And I’ve never gone down before and had no one notice.
A few more songs would have been nice, and there was a slightly odd sense that something had pissed Pete off, making him abort the set. But to grouse would seem churlish. Because it was wonderful to see him looking so well, and to see the whole band in such brilliant form.
It has seemed a long, long time since the spate of small gigs in July, and this did, indeed quench some of the thirst for more. Wonderful magic, indeed.

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