TVD Live Shots: Pete Doherty and the Puta Madres at the O2 Kentish Town, 5/12

I’m a massive fan of rock stars who genuinely embrace the lifestyle—the ones who make the most noise and piss off a ton of people while rising to the top because they play by their own rules. It’s the punk rock mentality that says, “show up as your true self and take no shit from anyone.” There are those who try to fabricate this mentality, then there are the tortured souls who have no choice other than to channel it in a creative way. Peter Doherty is the personification of all the above.

I’m also a massive fan of the Libertines and Babyshambles since I was living in the States. The Britpop invasion in the US seemed to have evaporated by the time these two bands caught a tailwind before the next big thing took over. However, there was always a buzz around them, and the critical acclaim couldn’t come quickly enough. So why didn’t either band truly break through in the States? Who fucking knows. (I blame the hipster elite who deemed it cool to love these bands and you almost had to be approved by this clique to properly enjoy the music.)

Now, I’ve been living in the UK for three years and looking to catch my first Pete Doherty show in any incarnation but with no luck. I missed the Libertines twice—it’s pretty much impossible to get tickets to their shows in London as they are usually one-offs, private gigs, or part of a huge show in a tiny venue for one reason or another. So when I saw Doherty’s new band plotting a proper UK tour, I thought this was my chance. And it worked out beautifully (…minus the non-existent lights on the stage. It was pretty much pitch black with a couple of backlights—otherwise known as a photographer’s fucking nightmare).

While I was hoping for just one epic shot of one of my favorite singer-songwriters from the past decade, I would have to settle for mediocre photos. Even though the lights were shit, Doherty compensated by delivering a juggernaut of a performance. A smorgasbord of songs celebrating every Doherty infused project seamlessly flowing one into another, all the while keeping the crowd on their toes trying to decide whether to sing along, dance, stomp their feet, chug a beer, take a shot, or combine all of these activities into a single ongoing motion.

Doherty’s new, very capable band is called the Puta Madres, and while they do produce an incredibly fresh dynamic for Doherty’s catalog live, they also push his songwriting into another world. It’s a bit more of an organic sound than Doherty’s past projects, but the songs hold their own against the best from his past. The album as a whole is much less harsh and even a bit folksy at times. While it remains anchored in all things, Pete (which is a good thing) it does feel more like a band effort as Pete seems to be opening his cabinet of curiosities for others to contribute.

All in all, it was a brilliant show, and while some shows have reportedly been hit or miss, this one was definitely a hit. Doherty clearly has much more to offer in terms of his contributions to British music. In fact, one could say he’s still very capable of creating his best work moving forward. Whatever the case may be, I just hope he can keep it together and continue to be his charming self and open up more about his struggles so that the fans can help instead of the media making it into a circus. God save the Pete!

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