“This area is full of adventure,” understates skiffler-turned-Libertine Peter Doherty, reminiscing about the Welsh gigs of his hell-raising youth, “without glorifying anything”. He was joined by Apple Music DJ Matt Wilkinson for an ‘In Conversation’ evening interspersed with acoustic workouts. Though enjoyable, it was evident this sort of event was a first and could’ve been more cohesive.
Upon his entrance in Cardiff’s Tramshed, Doherty is immediately characterised by his courtesy. He’s at first slightly meek under his trilby hat, but soon revelations are well-prised by self-confessed fan Wilkinson. I was particularly enthused by how Death On The Stairs was inspired by the quiet introspection of Belle & Sebastian. It sounded poignant stripped down – a small-town tragedy of addiction often lost under brash guitars.
Unfortunately, a decent amount of the evening had to be steered away from audience interaction, from misjudged questions to plain insensitive heckles. I had never realised how idolised he was, and everybody wanted to be noticed. His efforts to avert being pigeonholed as a deity only fed into the appeal: “You don’t need advice from me or anyone, just yourself.”
Doherty responded well: while some guffawed at “Do you want some mushrooms?”, adept sarcasm retorted, guitar in hand, “Yes please, that’d be lovely, thanks”. I got the impression he was being underestimated, perhaps due to the laddish noughties personification he’d long since outgrown. It was exasperating for a fellow gig-goer, who confided to me: “I’ve seen him perform lots of times. I just want to hear what he has to say.”
What was more captivating was his self-effacement. When Wilkinson requested his memories of supporting Oasis, you could feel his regret in correcting that they never made it: “That was a genuine mistake – I overslept!” Doherty was at his best when proud of his work, such as Babyshambles’ gorgeous Albion, an ode to a mystical England told through train stations. It said far more than his hellraising tales. With a decent conversation and a few reinventions of fan-favourite tracks, I’m sure this variety of show will find a balance and morph into something more fruitful with experience.
Peter Doherty, Tramshed, Cardiff, Sat 22 July
words and photos BILLY EDWARDS