Live Review

Babyshambles, Fête de l’Humanité, France

It’s not easy to explain to non-French readers what Fête de l’Humanité is…

It’s not that easy to explain to non-French readers what exactly is the Fête de l’Humanité. Certainly not a normal music festival. L’Humanité (Mankind), founded 1904, is the official daily paper of the French Communist Party. Each year, they organize a great festival in a ‘red suburb’ (one of these cities just out of Paris still led, quite successfully, by communist mayors) in order to help the paper, which does not sell as well as it used to, keep going. The leader of the Party (note the capital P) always delivers a speech at some stage, there are debates, film screenings, and a music festival. Among old leftist French singer-songwriters are always to be found great international bands: this year, Supertramp’s Roger Hodgson, N*E*R*D*, and Babyshambles.

No worries, Pete Doherty did show up, despite his new tendency to miss his plane and let his band apologize in front of an outraged audience. No, Pete was there and it was actually a pleasure to see him. The band starts with ‘La belle et la bête’, the opening track of their first album; the hysterical 12-year-old front row screams with delight and though that is a bit boring, the rest of the crowd cannot be dissatisfied. Then, ‘Carry On Up The Morning’, the first song of the second album. If you think that’s slightly too mechanical, you’re wrong. The live act is far more violent and rough than what is to be heard on the albums, and while you may have thought Babyshambles was the kind of bands it would be better to hear in a small venue, they can play festivals fairly well.

And happily, the sense of elegance that has become characteristic of the Libertines children gives to all this rock’n’rolling energy a touch of decaying dandyism. Posh? No, really sincere and really moving. Excellent performance for ‘Back From The Dead’, witty and coarse. The drummer leads the band throughout the gig with great inventivity. Doherty offers us a nice guitar solo, the kind of moments when you remember why he really is famous. The show ends – no surprise – with ‘Fuck Forever’, teenage hit with which it’s hard not to agree. Nothing political in that show? Well ‘Fuck Forever’ (or Fuck you ever?) could very well be the actual motto of the French President – but that’s another story.

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