A rapper support act, multiple stage invasions, dancing ballerinas – business as usual for Pete Doherty
There’s a long wait after witnessing the final support act get booed off stage, but not before the leather-clad blonde spits five minutes of acapella-rapped expletives, seemingly directed toward the unappreciative hipster indie-rock crowd.
Looking around at the trendier-than-thou audience, it’s difficult to tell if the rapper has been brought on simply to rile up the crowd before the main act, but the security willing her off stage within minutes indicates otherwise – once again, anything goes as the Pete Doherty circus rolls into town.
The Babyshambles frontman cancelled his last Irish tour in October after being hospitalised, so there is a real excitement about the overdue appearance. Early on, with the venue jammed, a rumour circulates that the first support act on were invited to play when Doherty saw them performing the night before to a handful of people in a Dublin pub.
Alan Wass is the highlight of the warm-up acts, with his Dylan styling, big hair and harmonica, delivering a short but sweet set of feel-good jangly tunes.
Roses Kings Castles, better known as Adam Ficek and fellow Babyshambles band member, performs a less inspired acoustic set.
‘Belfast is my favourite city – I don’t say that every place I go.’ Ficek jokes, but can't get past the indifference of the fashionistas and Doherty look-a-likees.
The main attraction arrives on stage dressed in grey suit with trilby covering his face and two ballerinas in tow, flanking him as he sits down centre stage with a pint of stout. As the mellow toe-tapping ‘Arcady’ begins, the dancers slowly twirl and stretch around him. Darcey Bussell they are not.
Such bizarre theatrics by another artist would be cringey, but the audience goes along with Doherty all the way.
No doubt helped by the fact that his enlivened performance includes Libertines and Babyshambles favourites, alongside more downbeat ballads from his debut solo album Grace/Wastelands.
The first stage invader comes early on, leaping around the unflinching Doherty and diving back into the frenzied crowd, with Doherty congratulating him on being the first on the tour to achieve the feat.
Babyshamble’s ‘Beg Steal or Borrow’ sees a copycat diver and by the night’s end, there have been four others, the last making it on stage wearing nothing but Y-fronts. The dancers don’t appear amused but Doherty carries on regardless.
Later, Wass is welcomed back on stage to supply a harmonica addition to the Libertines ‘Albion’ with heads in the crowd pointing upwards for the eyes-closed singalong.
Belting into hits ‘Can’t Stand Me Now’, ‘Delivery’ and ‘What Katie Did’, Doherty has the place erupting. The crowd love the style, yes. The rock and roll star, definitely. But most of all they love the songs and his performance. Even on the ballads, in particular a stunning rendition of ‘Music When The Lights Go Out’, Doherty makes it clear he’s in fine form and really enjoying it.
Encore ignored, the crowd go home beaming. On this form, it's no wonder there are whispers of a Libertines reunion.
Photos by Paul McGlade