Dirty Pretty Things frontman Carl Barat would risk life and limb for rock & roll. At least that's what he proved on Friday night when his new band made their Chicago debut to a sold out crowd at Schubas.
For a guy who seemed to be hell bent on trying to escape the stigma of his former band (The Libertines) and subsequent relation to his former band mate and iconic dumbshit/Sid Vicious-wannabe (Pete Doherty), Barat isn't helping things by being all rock & roll and breaking his collarbone while in Taiwan recently.
It goes without saying that Barat and Dirty Pretty Things (which also includes Libertines expatriate Gary Powell on drums, along with Didz Hammond on bass and Anthony Rossomando on guitar) have an uphill battle to prove that this time around their music won't be eclipsed by the tabloid exploits and excess that proved to be the demise of the Libertines. So much to Barat's credit, instead of canceling their limited string of U.S. dates, he toughed it out and said the show must go on.
Subtle embellishments in his rock & roll lifestyle aside, Barat and company stormed the stage with purpose and, well, a touring guitarist and homemade arm sling to boot. From the opening chords of "Deadwood" it was like Schubas was transformed into Beatlemania-type frenzy where no matter what the band did or say the crowd ate it up just because they were British.
From the few words of cockney greeting Barat gave to the obligatory bottle of booze next to the kick drum to the cloud of cigarette smoke they blew that engulfed the stage (in a non-smoking venue), this was the real deal. It made this writer and everyone in the room wonder why it is that British bands embody the essence of rock & roll so much better and essentially look a hell of a lot cooler doing it than their American counterparts.
Even with his arm in a sling, Barat ambled around stage like a not-as-graceful punk version of Fred Astaire whose mic stand served as both a crutch and a cane to strut.
With every song the capacity crowd swelled toward the stage and was singing along with every word, which is ironic since their debut album Waterloo To Anywhere just came out last week in the US. It didn't matter if you knew the lyrics to the songs yet or not though because the band had all the ingredients to transfix even the most jaded music fan or hack journalist in the crowd. They had the looks, the attitude, the songs and, most importantly, the delivery, all down. If they didn't suck you into their vortex you had to have been in a coma.
This band was legit. It was punk. It was garage. It was rock & roll. Most of all it was downright good fun. A touch of the Clash, a hint of the Jam and a smattering of lots of other seminal UK bands none of us have ever heard of channeled their spirit through DPT's music. It was one of those profound and inexplicable moments you experience that didn't quite change the face of rock & roll, but it sure as hell reminded you how much fun it's supposed to be.
Schubas had never sounded and felt so sonically alive compared to the more staid shows it usually has. There was no better room in the city for this band to make their Chi-town premiere.
The set hit a fever pitch by the time they dropped their single, "Bang Bang You're Dead," where guitarist Rossomando even pulled out his trumpet to play the opening melody just as it is on record. The band's less-talk-more-rock prerogative kept the focus on the music but also made their set come crashing to a stop in just a little over 30 minutes.
The band exited stage right (aka to the alley off Belmont behind Schubas) for a smoke only to have Barat return solo minutes later with (gasp!) a guitar strapped on for an encore. Fighting any and all pain (thanks in part to the liter of alcohol he managed to consume during the set) he managed to play the song "France" to the best of his ability. Barat's decision to fight the pain and play was both boneheaded and sincere, but in the end it proved how dedicated he was to the fans and his new band's music.
However, it has yet to be seen how far Barat will distance himself from the legacy of his past band since its notoriety is certainly fueling the buzz for DPT. It seems Barat is comfortable for the time being indulging for nostalgia's sake though.
As the band returned through the side door to the stage to join Barat, they closed with an old Libertines jam, "I Get Along." His old band might have crashed and burned, but Barat hopes his laurels will help sustain DPT for much longer than the Libertines.
photos and review by Craig Tiede