Peter Doherty, Krakatoa

Alisha Ahmed & Federica Frezza 11/09/2010

John and Paul must be very proud of new generations of musicians still paying tribute to their early days of Twist and Shout (yes, we do know it's originally by The Top Notes, but c'mon, everyone thinks of the Beatles upon hearing it, right?) Maybe it's not necessary for them to know that, when that does happen, because certain musicians, can't properly remember their own chords and lyrics!

When Peter Doherty announced he was to play at the Brixton Jamm on the 11th of September, tickets sold out in a matter of hours, so he kindly decided to play a double concert, on the same night. The audience for the early gig waits for Peter on the notes of Alan Wass, who strums his blues humbly and pleasantly.

Peter Doherty reaches the stage, grabs his guitar and opens with Lady Don't Fall Backwards. The crowd responds immediately, chanting along, reaching out to him and baptising him repeatedly with beer and bras.
Of this Peter is completely unaware.

He's not stoned or anything, he's just miles away, eyes closed most of the time, it makes you wonder if there's something either unbearable or just not enough for him to be there, he's not ungrateful, just... Distracted. He follows the set list and goes through it like it's a task, no room for interaction or much attention to the crowd, but interestingly enough not even for the rum and coke getting warmer and warmer behind him. When fans inadvertently hit the mic stand thus punching him straight in the teeth he barely notices, he looks like he's wondering where did that come from.

The only person you can tell he sees properly is his loyal roadie, he doesn't eye anyone else. After eighteen songs one straight after the other Mr Doherty shyly puts on the tentative smile that has graced his features from time to time during the evening and quickly disappears, as the first gig ends in a rush.

The audience for the second gig is let in, and rushing in they do, but unfortunately Peter is supported by a different act, this time: it's the Krakatoa, the most questionable choice of the evening. If there ever was a poorer choice for a support slot there are clearly promoters who can't do their job properly. Although, if the choice came from Mr Doherty himself, it might seem reasonable to believe that the criteria behind this must have been a sudden moment of low self esteem, where Krakatoa seemed the perfect choice as a benchmark to be promptly considered God's gift to music in comparison.

Five mismatched young men who think they're playing Wembley, whose songs could easily be dated 1993 and very badly executed wannabe versions of Song 2. They come off so annoying and preposterous it's embarrassing.

The second set starts and everything looks radically different from the beginning: mainly because Peter is actually enjoying himself much more than before, or at least he's letting it show. Ironically it's clear that this shift can't be ascribed to any other substance but adrenaline kicking in.

He seems so unstoppable now that any resemblance to the previous set list is stripped down to a minimum, just because apparently, if you leave an audience without any Libs song or singles, they might start singing it to you instead.

Twenty one songs including an impromptu Happy Birthday to a few people in the audience, a (failed) attempt to produce what will remain as an incomplete version of Merry Go Around, as no one in the audience could suggest the right chords -and never mind the fact that, yes, Peter wrote it himself-, and his very own redemption of Twist and Shout basically sang-along with the crowd, which he must know it's ready to follow, or you would not venture in a backing-vocals-driven songs head in, would you?
Twenty one songs is even more than it takes to work the magic: stage invasions (bizarrely advised against by Mr Doherty himself), a rain of letters and books, gifts and crowd surfing. Seems like, when the crowd's perceived Peter has let himself go, they feel allowed to do the same.
He looks at all this with some sort of protectiveness in his eyes, still somehow detached from the madness around him.

When all is said and done, when he closes the set with Don't Look Back Into The Sun and disappears backstage, no one has had nearly enough.

But despite the invitations for more he's nowhere to be seen around the Jamm, hence the night has to be declared as over. Although, on a Saturday night in Brixton, despite indications for the second gig to start at 11.30pm, the end comes no earlier than almost 3am. Mr Doherty has entertained a total of 1000 people more or less tonight, in very intimate sets driven only by his shambolic guitar skills, his poetry and the emotions he gets out of doing what he loves.

And although it's better if you're a tad bit in love with what he does to fully appreciate a set presented the way this was, the peculiarity of his character is something intriguing to witness for anyone interested in talent, rather than gossip, surrounding an artist such as Peter Doherty is.