Languorous types Ex-Lovers kick off tonight’s proceedings. Sadly, their half-dreamy, half-bored take on inter-band relationships (as The NME would have it) loses its wintery, ethereal quality in a space so huge and is simply lost on the disinterested crowd. It’s somewhat of a shame; in a smaller venue the sleepy calling of their boy/girl harmonies and disillusioned lyrics would probably draw in new fans. It’s rather an easy feat for a new band’s sound to get lost in the Barrows anytime — especially tonight; the trilby-wearing, cat-calling crowd are shamefully aware of only one singer.
Always surrounded by controversy, Doherty’s forthcoming solo record (Grace/Wasteland) has been shadowed by the usual tales of kebab debauchery — to some extent explaining the air of excited anticipation on this, his second date of his solo UK tour.
Waltzing onto the stage to a mass of applause, Doherty launches straight into an acoustic version of old Libertines’ favourite, ‘Music When The Lights Go Out’. Appeasing the waiting fans immediately, this sets the standard for the night.
His new solo material being the priority of this tour, Doherty interweaves new tales of murder, death and love with the old familiar strains of the demise of Albion and English Arcadia.
It’s clear that Doherty still retains his talent as a lyricist, but while the new tracks obtain a fair reception, it is the Libertines’ tracks and occasional Babyshambles ones that receive the greatest response — ‘Fuck Forever’ being one of the few moments when the crowd appear truly content. The new tracks are padded out with the ever-available Graham Coxon on guitar, and the odd cellist and violinist thrown in for good measure — this does add to the musical bonanza of the night, but I can’t shake the feeling that most people are here for either Libertines/Babyshambles reminiscences or the ‘Who’s got the crack?’ t-shirts on sale in the other room.
Few people seem genuinely excited about the prospect of hearing new material tonight, and the tracks don’t stand out in the vast room without an exultant crowd propping them up with all the enthusiasm of the tone-deaf. All in all, it’s an odd evening. The Libertines’ songs Doherty plays retain the promise they did years ago, but his new material appears to merely hold resonances of his talent. Perhaps it is the fault of the cavernous venue, but I can’t help feeling his new material would illustrate its worth much better in a more intimate setting. Tonight, unfortunately, it seems Doherty’s notoriety has given him a stage too big to convincingly fill.