Is Pete Doherty becoming the musical equivalent of Perez Hilton? First, lost La’s leader Lee Mavers pops up on his YouTube channel, singing Free’s ‘All Right Now’, of all things. Then our boy ropes in Graham Coxon for guitar duties on his solo album. Tonight, he’s onstage arm-in-arm with none other than Roger Daltrey, belting out Who classics in front of nearly 2,000 fans. The man gets around.
In true ’Shambles style, this gig’s happening for a variety of random (but sincere) reasons: one, to boost awareness for the Teenage Cancer Trust, of whom Daltrey is patron; two, to raise money for Moonfest (the cancelled summer festival Babyshambles were supposed to headline); and three, to pay tribute to Daniel Squires, the teenage Babyshambles fan who died after suffering bone cancer last year.
Book-ended by a set of ’Shambles-only tunes, Daltrey’s 10-song sojourn with the band in the middle of the gig is undeniably the focal point. When the 64-year-old bounds onstage, Doherty shoots his guitarist Mik Whitnall a mischievous smile, as if he knows he’s about to strike gold. But while ‘Substitute’, ‘The Kids Are Alright’ and – weirdly – an unplanned cover of Johnny Cash’s ‘Ring Of Fire’ are merely good, it’s ‘I Can’t Explain’ that sees the two frontmen spark off each other. With Daltrey singing backup, Pete pours himself into the song – his slurred voice chewing over that bullish vocal, substituting pop melody for wide-eyed aggression.
Remarkably though, the band’s own ‘Fuck Forever’ is even more exciting. Tonight, they (minus Daltrey) push the song to breaking point, largely thanks to Whitnall. While he’s light years away from having the technical nous of predecessor Pat Walden, he does know how to make his guitar sound completely fucked up. Aided by Doherty’s ear-piercing baby-wails it’s pure nasty, more like PiL on ‘Paris Au Printemps’ than the straightforward Manics/Nirvana homage of yore. Daltrey, looking on from the wings, doesn’t wipe the smile off his face until its nihilistic end.
“Roger has gone. With a shake of the hand and a ‘Be lucky’ he left, stealing our cheese, too. It was brie,” notes Pete wistfully after the gig. “He said he was surprised by us.”
He’s not the only one. Tonight, Babyshambles play big, dumb, stupid, invigorating rock’n’roll brilliantly; it’s well worth a little bit of fromage filching.