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Peter Doherty - Royal Albert Hall, London, 5/5/2023

  by Steev Burgess

published: 3 / 7 / 2023

Peter Doherty - Royal Albert Hall, London, 5/5/2023

So there were were, beneath the golden glint of the Albert memorial, filing into the Royal Albert Hall on the eve of King Charles's coronation. Tonight was the scheduled last night of Peter Doherty's 'Battered Songbook' tour, paradoxically, a welcome antidote to coronation overkill for some in the crowd and and the beginning of a long weekend for others. The stage set stands in stark contrast to the grandeur of gilded boxes and the towering pipe organ at the back of the venue. There are two old black leather sofas, a vintage radio, a tall potted plant, an amp and a hat stand decked out with a QPR football scarf, cap and a cheap plastic Union Jack hat. A scene more reminiscent of an average musician's basement flat than the usual stage accoutrements for a gig. Some musicians I know wondered if any performer could hold the attention of such a large crowd with an acoustic performance for ninety minutes:; others wondered if Peter's allure could fill the hall. With the talented and exuberant Strap Originals signing Hak Baker having finished his set, poet and acting MC for the night Luke Wright finished his short but impressive set by announcing., "This is a venue built for a King. He is our King, Peter Doherty." Doherty sauntered on with Zeus and Gladys his ever present dogs in tow, to the applause of a three-quarters full venue, which is par for the course in these post-Covid times of recession. Doherty was wearing a new blue Mark Powell tailored suit, white shirt and red tie, topped by his favourite grey trilby and a cane. Katia De Vidas, Doherty's heavily pregnant wife. joins him onstage at the keyboard, barefoot and wearing a white shawl, gifted by regular Libertines photographer, Christina Massei. There were lots of familiar faces here, collaborators and family, including Peter's sister Amy-Jo and his Mum, who the singer later teases has already left. Zeus has already seen enough of the long tour and wanders off stage right and Gladys curls up near a monitor for the opening song. 'The Ballad of ....' begins. Peter excuses his slightly reedy voice, twenty date tour and chest infection that caused the cancellation of two dates is clearly not fully healed, but he soldiers on improving as the song progresses. Exit Katia and the cane, and on with the acoustic guitar for five songs clearly chosen from the large and impressive battered songbook for the occasion. 'She is Far', very old song set in London's parks, reminds us of "monuments to blood spilt in far off lands." and Peter explains how he uses the idea of King as a metaphor for someone important at the time before playing 'Tell the King' and 'The Man Who Would Be King', which he dedicates to the late Alan Wass by way of example. Sometimes pausing for refreshments and fanning himself with his hat, the singer seems irritated that his dogs are not allowed on stage but puts on a fine show. Katia returns to the stage to play tidy harmonica on a rendition of 'Albion' which, explains Doherty, was his first song played to a largely unappreciated crowd at an open mic at the Bull in Brentford, near the old football ground. There will be no small satisfaction for it to be heard here, I imagine. Peter removes his jacket and trilby. using the plastic Union Jack hat with I suspect, some irony, as a topical new song is unveiled to London audiences, possibly called 'Merry Old England', which welcomes immigrants to the shores of his idealised, wished for version of a more generous spirited Albion. The pIastic hat is replaced by a flat cap reminding me that Doherty's vision is as much influenced by a Chas and Dave sing-a-long as a Morrissey-influenced night of poetic song. In fact, short recorded snippets of Tony Hancock decorate any silences between songs, in a night full of rarities and neglected numbers as well as sing-a-long favourites. 'Hooligans on E' gets an outing, with his witty take on a football chant - "Going home in a London ambulance,/Going home in my cosmic ambience" - pulling a grin to my face and others. The subject of football having arisen, Peter is self-deprecating in reminding the crowd that St Jude was the patron saint of lost causes and the original name of Queens Park Rangers. Resting occasionally to play guitar plonked on one of the sofas or cleverly playing a throbbing open-stringed guitar rhythm while refreshing his throat with a drink, Doherty as ever, turns the vast venue into his home, to which we are all invited. The songs continue, one sometimes runs into another like 'French Dog Blues' dovetailing into 'Bollywood to Battersea,' but the lack of dogs on stage rankles with the singer, who twice reminds the crowd that he didn't have that trouble in The Welly Club in Hull. As the night edges towards its end, it's clear that the performer did indeed hold the attention of the audience, with far less talking over songs than is sometimes the case these days. Then it was then as though Doherty suddenly recalls he has played here before, some fifteen years previously. There was a stage invasion he recalls, but now they've got this barrier to stop you. He launches into 'Time for Heroes', which is the cue for a handful of fans to get the invitation, breach the barrier for the chance to sing with their King, launching a high-spirited stage invasion of their own. People pour in from both sides and security look like a team of King Canutes unable to stem the tide of bodies, until the stage is awash with fans and at least one member of a band who has in the past, supported the Libertines, who shall remain nameless. With the stage eventually cleared and the pot plant retrieved from someone wanting an unusual souvenir, Peter wished to return to the missing mic for a clutch of 'Putre Madres' songs due to be performed with patient onlooker Jack Jones, as well as a finale of 'Message to Rudi' with Hak Baker, which was to be dedicated to the late Specials singer Terry Hall. The management of the venue are having none of it though. Hak Baker and Katia return to the stage to take a bow with Peter and a night we won't forget fizzles out with the crowd somewhat spent and with exhausted, mimed apologies. Set List: The Ballad Of Empty Room She is Far Tell the King Music When the Lights Go Out The Man Who Would Be King Albion Merry Old England Hooligans on E Can't Stand Me Now The Ballad of Grimaldi French Dog Blues/Bollywood to Battersea I Get Along Never Never Time for Heroes (Incomplete due to stage invasion)

Also at Royal Albert Hall, London

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Peter Doherty - Royal Albert Hall, London, 5/5/2023

Peter Doherty - Royal Albert Hall, London, 5/5/2023

Peter Doherty - Royal Albert Hall, London, 5/5/2023

Peter Doherty - Royal Albert Hall, London, 5/5/2023

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