Barrowland, Glasgow, Wednesday, September 4
If you don’t count yourself among their number, the level of patience afforded Peter Doherty by his disciples can often seem little short of mystifying. We’re not just talking about the people who waited 90 minutes for him in Brixton last night, either: there’s also the greater ignominy of watching your idol ebb further from relevance, shambling around in French costume dramas and setting himself up as a doughy Steptoe specialising in Amy Winehouse’s old cigarette ends. To an outsider, it looks less like keeping the faith and more about maintaining the self-delusion.
Yet, with ‘Prequel To The Sequel’, Doherty has returned with a timely reminder of why anybody cared in the first place. For the first time in their nine-year history – and largely thanks to the resolve of bassist Drew McConnell – Babyshambles finally resemble a band, and not just a poor excuse for one. Live, however, it’s still very much all about Peter. When he bounds onstage tonight – just the 13 minutes late – he’s greeted by a beery eruption of cheers and terrace-chants of “Pete! Pete! Pete!” Whenever he ventures close enough to the barrier to accept one of the many, many drinks that are thrust his way, dog-whistle shrieks fill the room.
Many of these people, you suspect, would happily watch Doherty slur his way through ‘Knees Up Mother Brown’ on a half-strung acoustic for 90 minutes. Some probably have. But Doherty’s meandering impulses seem to have been reined in by the strength of the band’s new material – like the Morrissey-esque jangle of ‘Nothing Comes To Nothing’ or the superlative ‘Farmer’s Daughter’ – which don’t really allow for it. Babyshambles are, for the most part, at least, a tighter, more focused entity these days.
Of course, Doherty still barrels around the stage like a sweaty roustabout, tearing off his shirt as ‘Pipedown’ coughs and splutters into life, and spilling booze all over himself when he hears the convulsive intro to ‘Fireman’. Later on, when he’s looking and sounding a little less compos mentis, the crowd assume the role of what footballers refer to as ‘the 12th man’. After a conspicuously long wait for an encore, he garbles his way through ‘Killamangiro’, buoyed only by their unreserved enthusiasm.
The set ends with ‘Fuck Forever’, a song that has always seemed to encapsulate Babyshambles’ haphazard, seat-of-the-pants regard for their own existence. Whether the positive response to ‘Prequel To The Sequel’ will herald a new beginning for this band boils down to their walking inconstancy of a frontman, but for Doherty himself, it must be reassuring to know that there are still so many devotees willing to follow him into hell and back. Or at least another ‘Down In Albion’.