Peter Doherty

The head 'Shambler goes it alone for his best live performance in years. No, really…Glasgow, Barrowland, Tuesday, February 24

The rim of the pint glass is an inch from our lips when a lost-looking figure strolls absent-mindedly across the stage, battered guitar case in hand. We’re still a good 10 minutes from show time but as our eardrums implode amid a shrill mass scream of “Peeeeeeeeeete!”, there’s no doubting who he is. He tips his trilby in solidarity and skips off to the dressing room while the earth shakes underfoot at the incessant tribal chanting of his name. Peter Doherty is all things to all people – hero, villain, poet, scoundrel, charlatan – but tonight, to these people, he’s something close to a deity.

Tonight has been billed as a Peter Doherty solo show, but really, it’s nothing of the sort. Sure, he bounds onstage with only by an acoustic guitar and launches into a joyous rendition of ‘Music When The Lights Go Out’, but by the start of the next song, Graham Coxon has popped up on guitar. By ‘1939 Returning’ five minutes later, a full band – including Babyshambles’ Drew McConnell on bass – and a string quartet are up there too, adding a haunted, maudlin dimension to the sound. It’s hardly high praise, but this is the best Peter’s sounded in years. Things are tight, but not too tight, and rough without being the muddy clatter of your average Babyshambles gig. He’s always fancied himself as a British Brel for the Reebok Classic generation; tonight, in a quieter, more restrained sort of way, he comes close to achieving it.

He’s still given to flights of tuneless fancy, such as ‘I Am The Rain’, which consists of thrown-together chords and a string of masticated syllables, but when the right song and the right moment come along, he knocks it out of the park. That meeting of moment and melody comes in a mid-set acoustic interlude that takes in the flighty nostalgia of ‘What Katie Did’, ‘The Lost Art Of Murder’ and a rabble-rousing ‘Fuck Forever’ that reminds you why so many have invested so much love and patience in him.

Does he still deserve it? On tonight’s showing – and the promise of upcoming solo album ‘Grace/Wastelands’ – just maybe. Hope, after all, springs eternal for the last man standing in the last chance saloon.

Barry Nicolson