FEW artists have so comprehensively lived up to the image of the tortured genius as Peter Doherty.
With The Libertines he helped re-establish the primacy of British indie-rock, ploughing into a scene which was becoming predictable and backward looking and injecting a welcome shot of rock & roll chaos and and – alongside sparring partner Carl Barat – charisma.
Eloquent and erudite, his finely crafted lyrics were poetic and struck a chord with fans. There was shimmering romance; cutting observations on society; enlightening tales of drugs, riots and falling out; and critical dissections of others loved... and not.
But there were also classical allusions, historical and literary references (not least to fabled Albion) flashes of nostalgia, and sparks of metaphysical beauty. His visions and vignettes were - and are - unpolished, sincere, and - above all - relatable.
Those who know little of the artist may labour under the impression - spun and perpetuated by a section of the Press hungry for celebrity scandal - that 'Pete' Doherty was a two-dimensional bad-boy rocker whose hellraising exploits, glamorous romantic life, very public fallings-out, and stoically shouldered personal struggles (invariably illuminated by the paparazzi's flashguns) titillated salivating national showbiz and music hacks.
For a while, his was a life lived in the lens; a goldfish bowl existence with a residency in the gossip columns under a prurient glare which well-and-truly crossed over into the realm of harassment.
But his occasional shenanigans should not eclipse the vision and talent of one of the greatest songwriters this country (or indeed any) has ever produced, whose gentle soul and engaging delivery endeared him to a generation.
And it is the crystalline beauty of those Libertines classics, as well as solo work and tunes from follow-up act Babyshambles which delighted a room full of admirers, kindred spirits and fellow travellers at the O2 Academy Oxford, last week.
The very definition of minimal, it saw Peter, in trademark broad-brimmed trilby, front of stage armed with just an acoustic guitar, a head full of songs and a smile.
The stripped-back ‘Battered Songbook’ show, saw Peter, perhaps a little shy at first, breathing sincerity into each song – which, unadorned and devoid of guitar theatrics, were allowed to shine.
A mellow start built up to Music When the Lights Go Out, where the relaxed vibe saw Peter joking with the crowd.
The highlights, of course, were anthems Can’t Stand Me Now – his self-effacing portrait of his falling out with Carl – and closest thing to a singalong, and Don’t Look Back Into the Sun. But this wasn’t a night of bangers, it was an evening of introspection and admiration for a wordsmith whose lyrical sorcery at times matches Dylan.
There was pure delight for Libertines’ song Up the Bracket and Babyshambles tune Songs They Never Play on the Radio.
It felt like being in his front room – particularly when his dog ambled on stage, sniffed around and made itself at home near the mic stand.
An extraordinary night, then, which should help reinforce Doherty’s reputation as an intellectual everyman, a performer who has done more than any writer to instil a love of lyrical imagery among listeners who wouldn’t go near a book of poetry.
Can't stand him Now? You're joking. We couldn't love him more.
A Time For Heroes indeed.