In retrospect, the great reviews-written-in-advance experiment of June 2009 proved a dreary failure although sneakers were worn and clumsy attempts at ruefulness were made. The reality proved different for both acts I witnessed last week. Peter Doherty was alright but did not change my life. He was a touch late arriving on stage and, although his songs were mildly pertinent and interesting, cut a somewhat irritating figure, more keen to demonstrate a fairly transparent bohemian attitude than engage a warm and kindly crowd maturely and coherently. As, no doubt, everyone who reads this will know already, the wan and fragile fop ‘ad ‘is collar felt within half an hour of leaving the Guildhall auditorium for a gleefully hefty array of offences. This comes as no surprise. He seemed a selfish, indulged creature at the concert; his rather pitiful attempt to rage against the system by lighting cigarillo after cigarillo on the podium proffered a laughable image. File under ‘Silly’ cross-referenced with ‘Old enough to know better’.
Athlete, I reflected, were rather splendid. I have coined a new phrase to sum them up: Cabaret Indie. Akin to old-fashioned light entertainers, the Deptford alternative rock collective understood an earnest audience’s requirements and proved charming fellows, involving all and sundry warmly, wittily and wi’ pleasing self-deprecation. They had nice haircuts and are probably nice to their grans. Four and twenty hours after a close encounter with Master Doherty, I appreciated pleasant and appealing and selfless attitudes. As not predicted, the group attacked a decent back catalogue with ebullience although the several brand new numbers offered were deft and agreeable. Various highlights from the worthy debut album, Vehicles and Animals, were fondly lapped up and even the later material, acerbically described on the way out by R as ‘Keane-Light’, was beautifully presented and played with vigour and meaning. It was a really cracking show and I salute the affable popsters responsible.