It’s important to state that for the record, I have a lot of time and respect for Peter Doherty. He’s undeniably in possession of a unique songwriting ability, and has been able to captivate a crowd like no other artist I’ve seen.
Which is why Sunday night’s show at Astra Kulturhaus struck a bit of a nerve. Having had the pleasure of seeing him perform as part of former NME favourites The Libertines almost a decade ago, I’ve had the good fortune to witness his compositional prowess and stagecraft before first hand. Yes, he’s charmingly rough around the edges – but that’s what makes his music so appealing. There’s a distinct authenticity and honesty to it that’s incomparable, and you’ll struggle to find another artist with such a wide-eyed sense of wonder when they step onto whatever the stage in question may be.
After a 50-minute wait, the lights dimmed, grown men began shrieking like small children, and Mr. Doherty stepped out in all his Fedora-tinged glory. Whilst doing my research ahead of this gig (as any journalist worth their salt does), I read a review by Alexis Petridis claiming that Doherty is “down to his die-hard fans”. If this is the case, then the man has nothing to worry about – I can honestly say I’ve never seen Astra so rammed. Revellers were stuffed in sardine-like fashion, desperate to catch a glimpse of their anti-hero.
Doherty purred kitten-like through his first few songs, accompanied by his new band, The Puta Madres. With his hand freshly bandaged from a dramatic incident involving rescuing a hedgehog his huskies had taken a liking to, he twanged his way through a well-curated set, peppered with older hits – much to the delight of the adoring crowd. Whilst the focus of this show was predominantly his latest record, the audience completely lapped up any Original Doherty Music™, seemingly losing their minds when the familiar opening chords echoed throughout the hall.
You’ll struggle to find another artist with such a wide-eyed sense of wonder when they step onto whatever the stage in question may be
I’m not sure who had words with the sound engineer, but Doherty’s vocals were incredibly low in the mix. The kick drum was far, far too loud for the tone of the music – if anything, it became something of a distraction, and combined with the battling guitars, actually hearing the frontman sing became rather tricky. Curiously, the speakers in the bar area were also blaring the instrumental sections, but little was to be heard of Peter’s voice.
It has to be said that perhaps this was because it was a rather mumbled, slapdash affair. Testing out his language skills with a native audience proved to be a big hit, and, intriguingly, he was easier to understand when he was speaking German. It’s clear that he’s at home on stage, but after disappearing half an hour into the show and re-emerging five minutes later shirtless and bleary-eyed (with a beer bottle in hand which he proceeded to tilt over the front row), it seemed that something was off.
Whilst he’s undoubtedly a wonderfully talented musician with a lot to offer, there was something slightly uncomfortable about the show that’s difficult to put my finger on. It felt a tad wrong to parade this man on stage in dance-monkey-dance fashion, when he perhaps has a little more recovery to get through. Having been so viciously obliterated by the UK tabloid press for so long will of course take its toll on even the most level-headed person, so it’s totally understandable if he’s still a little shaky from that experience.
Ultimately, the 1500 concert-goers were there because they collectively harbour a lot of love for this artist who has followed them throughout the course of their lives. We’re all rooting for him, because when he’s at his best, there’s honestly nothing quite like it.