With the fuse lit for Babyshambles’ UK tour it was only going to be a matter of time before the fireworks began.
And as the band rolled into Manchester Academy for just their fourth date it was of course Pete Doherty who exploded, during the sort of spectacular meltdown that has become synonymous with a life relentlessly ruled by drugs and tabloid misadventures.
Arriving on stage just the 15 minutes late he belted out the foot-stomping “Delivery” with such feverish ferocity that for a moment it looked like the music would, for a change, take centre stage.
Some 15 minutes later and those hopes were fading fast despite the best efforts of Drew McConnell, Mik Whitnall and the rest of the band who must have been growing weary and frustrated by the end of the night.
The adoring crowd helped finish off the verses as Doherty slurped and slurred his way through recent single “Nothing Comes To Nothing”, before staggering punch-drunk during a raucous “The Man Who Came To Stay”.
By the time they played the aptly named “Fall From Grace” it had become impossible to take your eyes off the former Libertine, who by this point was spending most of the time rolling around the floor or picking himself up off the drum kit. An army of techies ensured the gig continued, scurrying across the stage every 30 seconds trying to clean up the carnage left in his wake, but with each sway, with each swig of alcohol, with every wild swing of the microphone it became increasingly obvious this was going to be a shortened set.
Luckily “Farmers Daughter”, one of new album “Sequel To The Prequel’s” shining lights, managed to get an airing and it proved one of the night’s highlights. It’s a beautiful track, sparkling with tinges of Velvet Underground, and it shows the brilliance Doherty is capable of when he rises above the chaos he so often surrounds himself with.
“Killamangiro” demonstrated the other side, mumbling and stumbling from one verse to the next before launching his guitar at the drum kit, barely finishing the song and then storming off stage. Jeers made way for cheers though as he made his return and fan favourites “I Wish” and “Pipedown” had the temperature soaring once again.
They signed off with a rousing rendition of “**** Forever”, a rapturous climax which left the crowd gasping for air and Doherty just enough time to destroy the rest of the stage.
Paying to go and watch Pete Doherty is a gamble. For many though that is part of the excitement, even part of his charm. The Manchester gig may not have been professional or even respectful but it was certainly unforgettable.
A song-writer flowing with lyrical majesty, it would be a shame if the shadow cast by his endless stream of personal trial and tribulations darkened what promised to be a glowing career.