I watched Pete Doherty last night, on the first leg of his UK & Ireland tour in the lovely little venue that is the Assembly Rooms at Royal Leamington Spa. I took my boyfriend, who could be described as having the typical tabloid-reader-knowledge of our beautiful poet Peter, that means he thinks Pete is a crack-pot, druggie, no-good waster. Which of course, he is not. I took him feeling a bit smug myself, knowing he would be surprised and would maybe fall a little bit in love with Peter too.
This gig was such a big deal for me personally, that all day I failed to understand why the world had not come to a standstill. Surely Pete Doherty performing at Leamington Spa was bigger news than Osama Bin Ladens death? I am being totally serious. I am still wondering why everybody in the universe wasn’t there or at the very least, wishing they were there. Not a single news item could I find about this. I was quite shocked at the lack of crowds outside the venue….. Pete is bigger than Elvis, as far as my world is concerned!
So of course Pete was a little bit late and my boyfriend was given the opportunity to gloat a bit, telling me that Pete wasn’t going to turn up, that I would be disappointed and shouldn’t get my hopes up. I did not worry for even a split second. I knew he would be there and I knew it would be brilliant. There was some booing from the crowd (but not much, we shushed them), which was small, in a tiny, intimate venue. Some whistling and shouting too came from a small gathering in the middle of the room, which was filled with the most eclectic mix of people. Young (the age limit was 14, of which there were many, accompanied by their parents), old, middle-aged, ageing rock-star types, all faded denim jackets and tight jeans topped with white hair plus, randomly, plenty of skate-boardery boys. I liked it, the atmosphere was expectant. I saw lots of girls with killer heels too, which I admired, I could never go out of the house with such giant, spindly heels, let alone to a gig.
So, when the crowd were finally bored to tears by the background music which was one CD, the Kooks, and we had heard Ooh-La for the sixth! time, Pete leapt onto the stage, all bouncing enthusiasm and cheeky grin, cigarette clamped between his lips and glass of wine in hand. We cheered, I nodded an ‘I told-you-so’ look at my boyfriend and prepared myself to be enchanted.
You see, watching Pete is not just about listening to a guy whose music I adore. For me, it is about losing myself in someone whose values and beliefs echo those I admire most, it is about hope and inspiration and when I see Pete, I feel my soul becoming soothed. I just know that when I see him, everything is going to be alright. I love his story, his unfaltering quest for Arcadia, the beautiful words he writes and the songs he sings so proudly and with love.
After just a few songs, Pete took his guitar off, wished everyone goodnight and thanked us all for coming then walked to the back of the stage. I thought one young lady was going to actually explode, she screamed “you must be fucking joking!” with utter disbelief. Of course he was joking, he just needed a drink, and a smoke, on stage. Which prompted others to spark up a cigarette, this is perfectly normal at any other performance with him but absolutely not acceptable in Leamington Spa. The security staff reacted with apoplexy. They charged the crowd, grabbing offenders by any means and dragging them, protesting loudly out the back door and flinging them (I imagine) unceremoniously on to the street.
Two beautiful ballet dancers joined Pete on stage and danced around. I liked it. They were so pretty and fitted the music. It was unexpected and lovely. I like to think of Pete surrounded by the beautiful. Towards the end, they changed costumes and each held a Union Jack flag in pastel colours so that they floated around our boy on stage, so proud to be British.
For a Tuesday night, there were some very drunk people and a small number who were off-their-heads so to speak, on drugs. I was fascinated by one man in particular who was short and stocky and was truly a credit to himself for staying upright. He swayed and rocked, the lightest touch would send him reeling but somehow, he managed to remain vertical, I was ridiculously impressed. Two girls caught my eye, causing trouble. A couple of really nasty pieces of work, one of them punched a lad in the face for no reason. The security saw and chose to only ‘have a word’ with her. Frankly I was disgusted, since when did we live in a society where smoking has a harsh consequence yet violence does not?
The end of the night saw Pete throw his guitar into the centre of the room. The scrum and fighting raged on and on over this. It was still going when we left.
The music was beautiful. At times, Pete lost himself in the moment and I enjoyed seeing him do so. I took every opportunity to gloat to my boyfriend who had been quite vocal in his contempt of Pete beforehand, he was convinced that he would never understand a word he was singing, that the music would be discordant and the words slurred. He had to concur, he thought Pete was very good, much better than he anticipated. It wasn’t life-changing for him though, perhaps that was one wish too many on my part!
Not being ultra-cool, I cannot possibly write the whole set-list here but some of the songs were: Killamangiro, Arcady, Last of the English Roses, For Lovers, What a Waster, What Katy Did, Time For Heroes, Music When The Lights Go Out, Down In Albion, 32nd December (twice!), Can’t Stand Me Now and F*ck Forever.
I took short video clips of Killamangiro (opening song), What A Waster, the last chorus, because I love it so and What Katy Did because the ballet dancers accompanied him during this. I don’t film a lot of these things because ultimately, they are just for me and I want to concentrate on the here and now when I am there. But it is good to have little souvenirs of the night.
I went home and dreamt sweetly of Pete. I wish you all could have been there, you missed out.
P.S: I was stone-cold-sober for this, not a single drop of alcohol passed my lips! How’s that for a night out?