Peter Doherty flexes his song writing muscles to a receptive crowd at the Hackney Empire.

Since reforming The Libertines in 2014, and getting clean, life is looking pretty good for Peter Doherty. Having just completed a full European arena tour in support of The Libertines latest release ‘Anthems For Doomed Youth’, not being one to rest, he’s embarked on a solo tour in support of his upcoming second solo album. 

The stage setup is peculiar if the only format of Doherty you’re used to is a guitar, bass and drums. Tonight we have more than just the reliable trio, we also have the added help of a fiddle, piano, accordion, and banjo. A definite precursor to what angle the new material was going to take. 

It’s evident from the approach of the band and Doherty, that this isn’t to be a raucous event for the ages; it’s Doherty’s way of proving his worth and showing his songwriting skills. Though many in the crowd are clearly hoping for a Libertines surprise set or a full on greatest hits run through, the closest they get is slightly sedated versions of Babyshambles ‘Kilamangiro’ and The Libertines ‘Time For Heroes’, which both go down with great aplomb and see a surge in projectile drinks. 

What is most interesting about the entire event is that Doherty’s name is one that is synonymous with chaos and recklessness. Everything about tonight has the air and grace of a well oiled machine.Bar the somewhat abrupt transition into an encore which was longer than your average wait and the definite brash ending that saw an extended slow jam morph into Doherty launching his guitar at his tech and waving goodbye to the crowd. 

Certainly his worth as a songwriter is proven, with tracks that are flirting between genres such as country, folk and of course the brit-rock stylings that have proven to be his golden egg over the years. Keeping talk between songs to a minimum, the event feels like a personal necessity for Doherty, as if this is more for him than the audience, and we’re more than happy to a part of this personal journey. 

Walking out to the front of the stage occasionally, almost tentatively, he sizes up his crowd who are more than welcoming, in fact it’s clear his cult icon status hasn’t calmed over the years. He’s the messiah for the forgotten generation and this was a unique opportunity to see him in an environment that is far from those Libertine days. Toward the end of the evening, the crowd began to get slightly restless, yearning for the chaos. Where there is definite strength in his new solo material, it doesn’t quite resonate with the crowd as much as the aforementioned fan favourites. The songs at times can appear to wander into their own world, which is testament to the strength of the band that Doherty has assembled. 

The one thing to takeaway from this evening should be that, Doherty, no matter what his state of mind or body, is a talent and genius that should not be overlooked nor taken for granted. He keeps the spirit of British music alive, being inspired by the roots that would be long forgotten. Plus the lack of tabloid headlines now means we can truly focus on this diamond amongst the rough. 

You can catch Peter Doherty at this year’s Kendal Calling, taking place between the 28th-31st July. For more information head to kendalcalling.co.uk

This Peter Doherty article was written by Steven Loftin, a GIGsoup contributor. Photo credit Alia Thomas. Edited by Zoe Anderson.

Peter Doherty - Hackney Empire, London (19th May 2016) - LIVE REVIEW - Photo credit Alia Thomas

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