Having temporarily placed the Libertines behemoth into hibernation until they’ve got some new material to share, Pete Doherty has been busy writing and performing both on his own and, latterly, more with his relatively new band, The Puta Madres. After closing out the summer festival season with their ‘Sharrabang’ at Wheels & Fins, Pete, Carl, Gary and John have been putting the finishing touches to their new hotel and studio in Margate, which, coincidentally, is where Doherty and The Puta Madres found themselves on St. Valentine’s Day.
As part of their ‘Who’s Been Having You Over?’ tour, and ahead of the release of an eponymous new album, Peter Doherty’s latest band played at Fort Road Yard, Margate; a venue within a (very good!) stone’s throw of the sea and just up from the Old Town. Now, to say the venue was unique would be underplaying it. I’ve seen Pete play the Royal Albert Hall solo, play to thousands at various festivals, and last year he and the Libertines even played the hallowed Royal Festival Hall for Robert Smith’s Meltdown. To say this was at the opposite end of the scale would require a scale of massive proportions.
In a building that you could either describe as having plenty of character or verging on derelict, depending on which estate agent you’d spoken to, a leaner looking Peter Doherty & The Puta Madres put on quite a show. Where usually there may have stood a set of tea cup seats, a booth from a waltzer or a retro pinball machine, there now stood an improvised stage and about two hundred very lucky gig goers. In the main room of the vintage fairground and theme park inspired emporium, the Albion sailed on.
As the crowd settled in for the night, taking in their somewhat bizarre surroundings, and partaking of either Irn Bru, Red Stripe or Rosé (random doesn’t even begin to describe the bar!), local legend Mark Eden took to the stage to warm up the eager and excitable attendees. Having fallen off the wagon after a two year abstinence, it had all gone ‘Pete Tong’ for Eden after the previous night’s gig in York, thanks to the temptation of some scotch. Thankfully he was upright and up for it on his home turf.
Eden opened with ‘The Debt Collector’, served up an almost Nick Cave-like ‘Crackhouse Blues’, played a sympathetic cover of Bob Dylan’s ‘One More Cup Of Coffee’ with Miki from The Madres on violin, and ended with a raucous run-through of ‘Dirty Old Town’, which he duly dedicated to his own hometown. After Eden’s exit, it wasn’t too long before the sound system was alive with the sound of Chas & Dave: “You can keep the Costa-Brava, I’m tellin’ you mate I’d rather, have a day trip down Margate, with all me family”.
Pete and the band made their way from the floor above down some metal stairs that hadn’t seen a H&S inspector in a while and onto the curiosity and neon adorned stage. In matching tan-shop coats, Pete & The Puta Madres gathered themselves together and briefly surveyed the packed crowd before enthusiastically throwing themselves into Pete’s Bataclan attack inspired ‘Hell To Pay At The Gates Of Heaven’. Another track, ‘I Don’t Love Anyone (But You’re Not Just Anyone)’, from Doherty’s last solo album ‘Hamburg Demonstrations’ followed before he and the band delivered their latest release.
The first single to be taken from The Puta Madres April release, ‘Who’s Been Having You Over’, was an early set treat. Katia’s haunting keyboard loop, Miki’s violin and some deftly delivered guitar work from birthday boy Jack ensured the track was played out to its best effect. The setlist was pulled from every avenue of Pete’s musical career. The Libertines’ ‘You’re My Waterloo’ inspired the handing over of a few roses from someone in the word-perfect crowd and was also the point at which Pete decided it was time for a wardrobe change. Off came the shop coat, the camouflage jacket and the Libertines sponsored Margate FC home kit top.
Now in his baby pink polo shirt, Doherty and The Puta Madres delighted the crowd with ‘What Katie Did’, ‘Travelling Tinker’ (a song which Pete dedicated to ex bandmate, Alan Wass), a rather folksy and almost Dexy’s-like ‘Arcady’, and even a little surprise by way of Oasis cover ‘Don’t Look Back In Anger’. Rather ironically though, it was during the crowd favourite ‘Last Of The English Roses’ that it all kicked off at the front of the stage. In a scene that didn’t portray the older female demographic of the audience in anything like a flattering light, tensions were high. As the tightly packed crowd jostled for space, accusations, as well as slaps, were thrown as Margate’s Rosé swilling gangster grannies turned ugly. Security split up the Tangoed seniors and the band played on.
After a brief break to refresh themselves, and for Miki Beavis to receive flowers from her Valentine (“he’s been away on an oil rig”, Pete said jokingly), the band came back out for the second half of the night’s set. A harmonic and lively ‘All At Sea’ gave rise to some virtuoso violin from Miki. There was a staggered ‘Hooligans On E’ – “I thought you said you knew it?” Doherty called out to his band as they briefly faltered – and a Jack Jones-penned song ‘Paradise Is Under Your Nose’. All of them sounded great, up close and personal, in this most individual of venues, even if there were moments, as with most Peter Doherty gigs, where you wondered whether it would just collapse into chaos.
As the evening drew to a close Pete and his band ramped everything up a notch for the final track of the night. In an energised, anarchic and riotous ending, Peter Doherty & The Puta Madres set the stage alight with a superb performance of ‘F**k Forever’. The Babyshambles song was headed up by a teasing pre-amble of the Wolfman collaboration ‘For Lovers’, before Jones took centre stage with his guitar. Pete downed what looked like half a pint of Vodka and O.J., before joining him at the front of the stage. As they tore the song apart Pete first threw the mic stand into the crowd and then followed it shortly afterwards with his flat cap. The crowd were as pumped up as the band, and the room moved in unison whilst Pete cavorted about the stage, finally dropping to his knees as the song and the gig concluded. Peter and his new band The Puta Madres, arms around each others shoulders, took a bow and saluted the crowd.
In his newly adopted hometown of Margate, Pete had ensured there was a very memorable performance for all those who’d procured a ticket. The Puta Madres were on good form as they delivered a well chosen set list that hit the spot throughout the evening. In the intimate and truly one-of-a-kind surroundings of Fort Yard Road, Peter Doherty once again highlighted his talent as a musician, lyricist and performer during a very entertaining evening.