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Babyshambles: Chinnery’s, Southend: Tuesday, October 4

Frankly, Pete’s had a shambles of a week. Can he start afresh tonight?

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You may have noticed that Pete Doherty hasn’t had the best of times these last few weeks. Or months. Or even years. And with Babyshambles’ Norwich gig two days ago cancelled after our man was hauled down the cop shop for yet another alleged substance-based misdemeanour, Pete’s got more than ever to prove tonight. Not just to the fans – heck, they’d stand by him until time stood still – but to the entire population of Middle England, for whom he’s become the new tabloid public enemy Number One.

Outside, milling paparazzi are met with steely looks from Pete’s entourage, while fake tickets are flogged left, right and centre. But inside, appearing onstage late – of course! – Pete stumbles on flanked by Patrick and Drew, with a beer clasped in his hand. He looks vaguely bewildered, but it’s hard to tell if anything’s the matter. Frankly, he always looks like that.

It certainly doesn’t stop him and the boys from dishing out a rousing, if a touch ramshackle ‘Black Boy Lane’, where he nonchalantly whistles into the mic throughout. Then comes ‘Stix And Stones’, where he swings from a pole at the front of the stage. But then, after being grappled by the crowd, he’s gone. Offstage for 30 seconds. The crowd look worried at this sudden Pete-lossage, and when he bounds back on, announcing, “I think that’s it for the night,” some look seriously miffed. Thankfully, he’s just taking the piss, and bursts into a victorious ‘In Love With A Feeling’. What’s more, for the first time tonight, they don’t actually sound that shambolic: they’re tight, punchy, and – good god – sound like a real band.

Pete triumphantly kisses and hugs people, and er, gives someone back their credit card. The jiggy urban-ska of ‘Gang Of Gin’ carries on the perky vibe and, fitting in with the seaside mood, he dons a Kiss Me Quick hat before handing out bottles of water for the sweaty, wide-eyed masses during a beautiful rendition of ‘Albion’.

The biggest cheer of the night comes when Pete finally straps on a guitar and looks all the better for it. Say what you like about the man, but he’s certainly got stamina. After almost two hours of rockin’ and rollin’ the band pile offstage. Tonight, Drew, with his floppy hair over his eyes, could almost pass for Carlos, but this is far from a Libertines revival night. Encoring with ‘Fuck Forever’, it’s obvious that it really is a case of death or glory for Babyshambles. Sadly it’s still too early to tell which route they’re going to take. But, after tonight, we’re feeling optimistic. Leonie Cooper

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