Judge Ben Saylor likes his shambles super-sized.
"Tell me what can you want? You've got it all…"-"Time for Heroes," the Libertines
There are probably more Americans who have heard of Pete Doherty than there are Americans who have heard of his band, Babyshambles. Doherty, 28, is better known for his heavily reported brushes with the law due to his drug abuse, which frequently make headlines in music and entertainment-related news. His on-again, off-again relationship with supermodel Kate Moss has also drawn its share of attention as well. This is a shame, because Doherty is a gifted rock songwriter and performer, which was particularly evident during his stint with the Libertines, a group that dissolved due to Doherty's troubles. Doherty brings a rough but nostalgic romanticism to his writing; musically, his material sounds like the Clash and the Kinks.
Babyshambles released its first album, Down in Albion, back in 2005. The reviews weren't exactly rapturous, and the record is admittedly an extremely uneven, ramshackle affair. Doherty is clearly still in the throes of his drug problem at that point in time (he still gets pinched for drug offenses now and then), and it's rather telling that both Gemma Clarke and Patrick Walden, the drummer and guitarist for Babyshambles when Up the Shambles was filmed, have both since departed the band. The group's second album, Shotter's Nation, was released this fall, and is a much more cohesive, coherent record, featuring much better vocal performances from Doherty.
Unfortunately, Up the Shambles was filmed before the release of Shotter's Nation; still, the filmmakers were fortunate to catch Doherty on a good night. Filmed at a 2004 gig in Manchester, Up the Shambles is a solid concert video that fans of Doherty will no doubt enjoy.
The 17-song set list is a hodgepodge of Babyshambles material from Down in Albion as well as non-album tracks. (Most appear to be B-sides.) The band also performs several Libertines tunes as well. Here's the list:
• "The Man Who Came to Stay"
Singer Dot Allison, formerly of the group One Dove, joins Doherty mid-concert, and the pair performs duets on several songs, with Doherty playing acoustic guitar and contributing occasional vocals. I had never heard of Allison before, but she has an excellent voice, and I enjoyed this segment of the concert a great deal.
The main event, however, is the band itself, and everybody is fine form. Highlights include Down in Albion hits "F**k Forever" and "Killamangiro," and all of the songs that Allison sings. Some of the songs have a tendency to blend together, but all in all, this is a fine set of British rock 'n' roll. I do wish there had been more songs I was familiar with, however, and it would have been especially nice to have some Shotter's Nation material on here as well. Hopefully, Eagle Vision will put out another one of these somewhere down the road.
The concert itself runs about 64 minutes. This isn't really a documentary; aside from a little footage of Doherty arriving at the gig and departing at the end, this is straight concert video. It was obviously shot with several cameras, and director David Kay and his camera crew get plenty of varied angles to capture the action. In terms of lighting, while I've certainly seen prettier concert videos, this one isn't too shabby.
The audio is also very good, but while it's always easy to hear the band, the vocals are sometimes another story. Doherty is very hard to hear at times. I don't know where the fault lies for this exactly, but he doesn't come through nearly as loud as he should on some songs. When things quiet down for the acoustic set, this isn't as much of an issue.
The disc's sole extra is called "Backstage and More," and consists of 24 minutes of the band backstage during gigs, punctuated by an occasional song. With no subtitles, it's hard to tell what's being said, so aside from the music, this feature is a bit of a dud. The one caveat, however, is that you can directly access the songs.
Overall, Up the Shambles is worth a look for any fans of Doherty, the Libertines and Babyshambles and good British rock in general. Not guilty.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Eagle Rock Entertainment
• Backstage and More, including performances of "Time for Heroes," "Babyshambles," "The Boy Looked at Johnny," and "Can't Stand Me Now"
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