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Peter Doherty - O2 Academy, Oxford, 3/5/2023

  by Nick Dent-Robinson

published: 3 / 7 / 2023

Peter Doherty - O2 Academy, Oxford, 3/5/2023

Those who know little of Peter Doherty or his Libertines band tend to think of him as a pantomime rocker whose various personal struggles have generated acres of tabloid coverage. The Northumberland-born son of an army officer, Doherty - now 44 - was in a relationship with top model Kate Moss for some years and he was linked with many other women before marrying musician Katia de Vidas in 2021. But his tangled relationships and drug-related issues should not eclipse Doherty's very real talents – as a poet, artist, writer and musician. Despite all the headline-grabbing problems, Doherty is undoubtedly a great songwriter whose underlying gentle soul and engaged delivery have endeared him to a whole generation. With The Libertines he helped re-affirm the primacy of British indie-rock, injecting some real charisma into what was becoming a somewhat backward-looking and predictable scene. His recent performance at Oxford's O2 Academy was rather lower key, however. Eloquent and erudite, Doherty's finely-crafted lyrics were poetic and struck a chord with his audience of local fans and students. There was shimmering romance at times - but also some cutting observations on society. There were enlightening tales of riots, drugs and dissections of some other people but also classical allusions, nostalgia and historical and literary references plus some metaphysical beauty. The performance was unpolished, apparently sincere and very relatable. Peter Doherty was in trademark broad-brimmed trilby, standing front of stage armed with just an acoustic guitar, a memory full of songs plus a gentle smile. Promoted as the 'Stripped-back Battered Songbook' show, Doherty's performance saw him apparently a little nervous initially but delivering every song with great sincerity. And the absence of guitar theatrics allowed each song to really shine. A mellow start built up to 'Music When The Lights Go Out' highlights included 'Can't Stand Me Now' and the closing sing-along number 'Don't Look Back Into The Sun'. But this wasn't really a night of powerful anthems, more an evening of introspection and admiration for a fine wordsmith and multi-talented performer. It was an intimate occasion - especially when Doherty's dog ambled on stage, sniffed around a bit and made itself at home near the mix stand. Peter Doherty has previously commented that he likes to try to instil a love of lyrical imagery in his audience - especially in those who might not normally read a book of poetry. At Oxford on this early May evening, he certainly did his very best to achieve that!

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Peter Doherty - O2 Academy, Oxford, 3/5/2023

Peter Doherty - O2 Academy, Oxford, 3/5/2023

Peter Doherty - O2 Academy, Oxford, 3/5/2023

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