Hackney Empire April 12th 2007
An Evening with Peter Doherty (and Carl Barât)
Sometimes momentous events slip by and you don’t know how important they were until later. Tonight at the Hackney Empire every member of the audience KNEW they were present at something extraordinary. Something to be remembered and talked about and written about endlessly.
Rumours have been flying about ever since the announcement of the two ‘Evenings with Peter Doherty’ some weeks ago. Rumours fed by press coverage of the Doherty-Barât booze-fest over Easter weekend. But rumours have been going around about possible reunions for years. And that’s what they have been. Rumours. Not to be taken seriously.
The evening began in a similar vein to the previous night. We settled in for a really lovely evening of Peter at his best joined by a number of interesting guests. A collection of songs from Left Hand frontman Alan Wass kicked things off. After joining Wass for his final number, Pete launched into a series of songs, sometimes lurching from one to the next, sometimes pausing and chatting to the audience, blagging beer (a no smoking venue, so he was not able to scrounge the usual fags).
All the while, slightly bizarrely, a painter worked on a large canvas stage right, rapidly filling in performers in shades of brown. Peter then introduced the legendary Bert Jansch, and after one duet, left Jansch to do a brilliant set alone, rejoining him to sing a poignant version of Jansch’s ‘Needle of Death’.
This was followed by more solo Doherty, and he was in good form. Sweet-voiced, breathy, lyrics accompanied by acoustic guitar. A harmonica appeared several times, but always seemed to be the wrong one for the song, so never was used. Pete never seems to be able to hold still on stage, and this was no exception. He wandered, fidgeted, folded himself up like a giant rag doll. He took his wide brimmed hat off and fanned himself and when the audience urged him to keep it off he explained that his hair was all flat and he couldn’t. Really, we wouldn’t have minded. He was charming, in good voice, and showed once again the reasons why audiences love him: he is an amazing, talented writer and performer. Songs included ‘Killamangiro’, ‘I Love You But You’re Green’, ‘Beg, Steal or Borrow’, ‘Cyclops’, ‘Back from the Dead’…..and more.
Pete then announced a special guest, Carlos Barât. The audience went wild. ‘Nah, only joking’ he said, ‘what do you expect for twenty five quid’……pause, as the audience groaned and laughed……and on walked Carl. In tight suit, tie and porkpie hat. Looking formal and a bit nervous. Pete beamed, as the crowd stood up and cheered, moving forward as much as the seated auditorium would allow. ‘Hello’, said Carl, and so began nearly an hour of magic.
From a slightly hesitant version of What a Waster to a roaring, sing along of Time for Heroes, they both relaxed into it, and began to have fun.
Highlights included a series of faux-starts to Seven Deadly Sins whilst they bickered over the time. Carl: 123, 123. Pete: 1234, 1234. Carl: no it’s 123, 123, we’ve gone over this hundreds of times……. Pete led Carl into ‘Dream A Little Dream of Me’ with, ‘Carl, I’ve been thinking……..’ and playing the intro, and Carl not only sang it, but accompanied himself with a rubbishy tap dance.
They also played ‘Good Old Days’, ‘Death on the Stairs’, ‘Tell the King’, ‘What Katie Did’, ‘France’, ‘Dilly Boys’ and ‘Don’t Look Back into the Sun’. Carl messed up words to songs he has not sung in a long time, and both fumbled sometimes with what came next….. but none of that mattered. Carried along on a wave of totally rapturous enthusiasm from the crowd, both Carl and Pete gave performances marrying past to present – and seemed to have a good time along the way.
After a brief interval (enough for a quick fag, we assumed), they reappeared to do ‘Albion’ with Carl on vocals and Mik Whitnall on harmonica, and ‘The Delaney’. Pete bowed and left the stage, leaving Carl to the last word. ‘Thanks’. And thanks to them from all of us who were privileged to be there. It was an incredibly exciting, emotional evening. Many of us witnessed something we thought might never happen. Whatever the future brings for Peter and Carl as joint performers, tonight was wonderful. It was electric, and full of joy. And it was now, tonight, not about the past, not about the future. And that was more than enough.
12th April 2007