My 13 year old daughter teases that I have a man-crush on Pete Doherty. I stand guilty as charged. The epitome of elegantly wasted, he has raised bohemianism to an art form. Even setting aside his music, his penchant for classic Jags, supermodels, wine, cigarettes and deviance from the social mores of our time prove a heady mix for any middle-aged man fondly recalling his own days of hell-raising and hedonism.
Looking back I realise that the characteristics that in my twenties gave me the slightly romantic air of being tragically flawed, seemed by my late thirties to be merely a tragic waste of my own talents. In my forties I lost my best friend to a lifetime of hard drinking, and began to clean up my own act, shifting my gaze to the pure and simple pleasures of Arcady.
Those who push boundaries – their own and those of them around them – to the very limits, and occasionally beyond – have always appealed to me. Pete, Jim , Keith, Hunter. Their self-destructiveness vicariously feeds my own tendencies. There but for the grace of god and the love of a good woman go I.
In a very twenty-first century way Pete embodied this when he lit a cigarette on stage during his guerilla set in the appropriately sleazy upstairs room at Society in Coventry. His casual disregard for the petty, nannying rules of modern Britain incited anarchic cries from the crowd – “Pete’s smoking, so can we”.
It was the combination of Pete Doherty’s music and this devil-may-care attitude to life that put seeing him perform live onto my bucket list when I drew it up last year. His music has been a staple of the Hibbott family soundtrack for a while. At the time, nine months ago and before he got clean in Thailand, it felt like there may not be much time left to see him before his lifestyle caught up with him.
To make sure that I didn’t miss the opportunity to see him play I started following him on Facebook, and late last month I was excited to discover that he was playing this intimate “one-off” gig in the upstairs room at Society in Coventry that night. Billed as a homecoming gig, it is said to be his last before heading back into the studio to record a long-awaited new Libertines album.
I sent Jude an email to see if she was on for a spontaneous adventure, half expecting a regretful no. To my delight she completely bought into the excitement of it all and I hurriedly bought the tickets online. We set off to see the him play just a few hours later.
Apart from Plaxstock, an invitation-only musical festival we have attended a few memorable times it is rather shockingly the first live gig I’ve seen since The Stranglers played Thessaloniki in about 1995. It was a perfect re-introduction to live music.
The support bands – April, Yes Sunshine and Pretty Rascals – were good, but like most of the rest of the crowd we had come to see Pete.
He arrived fashionably late – enough for us to be relieved when did finally come on, looking happy and healthy – and performed a set that included many of my favourite songs: including ‘ What Katy Did?’ (a family favourite), ‘Can’t Stand Me Now’ and the new and poignant ‘Flags of the Old Regime’, written for Amy Winehouse.
As a souvenir of a wonderful night I am now the proud possessor of a signed ‘Flags of the Old Regime’ poster scrawled “Up yours, Pete Doherty”.