Babyshambles, Alan Wass, Cazals
To say that I was a bit apprehensive before Saturday nights concert at the Ambassador would be an understatement, the night before at the Trinity Ball had truly been a mess, with Patrick the guitar player leaving half way through, and with the newer songs not really seeming to gel properly, and even 'Time For Heroes' and 'Killimangiro' didn't sound that good for some reason. However, as I approached the venue I told myself three things to reassure myself that Pete would pull it off tonight: 1, that the crowd at the Trinity Ball were not necessarily all there to see Babyshambles, 2 that they went on stage at 4am, which even for Pete and his crew must be pushing it a bit, and 3 that the Ambassador would be a far better venue than the tent I saw them in at the Ball.
I arrived in what I thought was just a nick of time, (yes I was too lazy/hungover to come in early for Cazal's, but everyone seems to be saying they were very good) at about 9.10, having been told that Babyshambles were coming onstage at 9.15. There was a palpable tension in the crowd as to whether Pete would make it, as I'm sure the usual bullshit rumours had been going about all day, but when he didn't come on until about 10 it did seem to add credence to them somewhat. Before Babyshambles came onstage, Alan Wass played his Dylan/Stones-esque acoustic set, which although in no way bad or unskilled, was certainly not my cup of tea. The audience did seem to like it though, which is definitely a genuine seal of approval as he was delaying their beloved's arrival on stage.
Anyway, after he left the stage the lights went down for a while and the band eventually came out with Pete to deafening applause and screaming from the assembled worshippers, which was possibly a combination of both admiration and relief. With the first words Pete Doherty screamed into the microphone, my doubts from the night before seeped away instantly, he was a completely different person to the person I saw plodding through the set at the Trinity Ball, grabbing the microphone and screaming 'Aww PADDY PUT THE PIPE DOWN' with an intensity which I wouldn't have believed he was capable of then. The band also seemed to share his passion, blaring out the songs much harder and surer than the previous night. The song itself ('Pipedown'), was incredible, and had that rare quality of a song, which instantly grabs the listener. From even the first 6 words, it was both extremely catchy and powerful, and one that I cannot wait to hear in a decent recording, or to be honest even a crappy bootleg recording will do.
Surprisingly Albion, although the bands performance of it was exceptional, did not produce the kind of sing-alongs from the crowd which you might expect - I thought I would be treated to an almost 'Wonderwall' like example of crowd participation, but it was not to be, although the usual crowd-pleasing 'we'll go to' section was filled with 'Tipperary?' (which may or may not have been a bow to Shane MacGowan who was present) and 'Wexford?' was well received, which is just one example of Doherty's interactions with his crowd. There were no problems involving the crowd on the other hand when the opening chords of what is often cited to be the bands next single, or at least their onstage anthem 'Fuck Forever' chopped out of Patrick's guitar. Doherty introduced the song by saying 'This song is called Fuck Forever, and I'm dedicating it to Shane MacGowan, a man who can definitely Fuck Forever…'. The song truly connected with the crowd who surfed, sweated, jumped and screamed for the whole thing, it is a song which although not particularly fast, is still surprisingly 'heavy' and energetic when performed live. If they can work out a way to release this song without losing its integrity, surely if there's any justice in the world it will be number one ( maybe in a world where it looks like 'Crazy Frog' is about to get to number one, I shouldn't speak too soon).
Gang Of Gin' is one of the few songs that stuck out amidst the muddle the night before in Trinity, and tonight it easily surpassed the positive impression it left the night before. However, with lyrics such as 'Carl and McGee both promised me it would not happen this way' and 'McGee doing all he can to ruin my band and keep me out the way', Pete's performance of it 3 nights in a row can hardly give hope to anyone wishing for an imminent Libertines reunion after Carl and Pete's 'kiss and make-up' last month. Apparently at the Belfast gig however, Pete Doherty said something like 'This is for Carl, I wanted to change the lyrics but they wont let me', so maybe that is at least some form of a small olive branch to cling to. During this song, Pete's performance is remarkable, with him doing his stuttered dancing to the faster parts perfectly in time, and accentuating the contrasting elements of the songs flawlessly. Throughout the concert, Pete was never less than energetic, (well except for 'Albion') constantly running about the stage, jumping about on the monitors, blatantly flouting the Irish smoking ban, or alternating between shaking cans and spraying them all over the audience or spinning around in a strange combination of Dervish rituals and Morrisey-stylings with his flopping arms.
A tight and joyous performance of 'Killimangiro' was another number that sent the multitude manic, with its instantly recognisable opening drumbeat, and the catchy 'China Girl' like introductory guitar-hook causing the crowd to swell forward almost instantly. 'My Darling Clementine' was a good, solid song performed well, but not the most exciting of the night by a long shot, still enjoyable nonetheless, although unfortunately it bore absolutely no resemblance to the Huckleberry Hound classic.
'Stix and Stones' was the other song that had made a permanent impression on me the night before at Trinity. The versions that I had heard before; 2 acoustic ones and one reggae-ish version with trumpets (Branding Sessions), were nothing compared to the majesty of the newer version I heard on stage. It really surprised me, as it was not a song I had paid much attention to in its earlier incarnations (although I did always like the 'don't look back into the motherfucking sun' bit), but when done live, the epic 'that's the end' chorus was truly magical and was one of the highlights of the night for me.
For an encore, the band returned to the stage and played 'Wolfman' - a song, which showed the bands diversity, as it really did sound like a Chilli Peppers song from their first two albums, or Gang Of Four I suppose, and nothing like what people would expect of Babyshambles. Drew McConnell's bass playing on this song was bruising and precise, which was accentuated by Pete's departing performance for the crowd in which he threw his microphone at a member of security (who apparently had been a bit rough with a member of the audience), and then jumped onto the crowd-surf and punched said security man in the head repeatedly. Eventually he was pulled off and returned to the stage, but there were to be no more vocals from him that night. So the performance ended with a small bit of anarchy and a lot of feedback, but the audience did not seem to feel short-changed at all, although they did hang on hoping for another encore, but it was not to be. Overall, an inspired and invigorating show, and one that kicked and spat on any doubts I had held from my experiences the night before.