The Ides of March? As the U.S. enters year three of "The Iraqi Police Action?" The Pogues?
The Pogues. 1991. They were going to America and opening for Dylan on his tour and singer and lyricist Shane MacGowan was drunk and on hallucinogens and was disallowed to fly on the plane. So they did the tour without him. They went their separate ways. But have started doing small reunion tours. And now come to America. To Atlanta, Washington, New York, and we caught them in Boston.
They started with Rivers of Whiskey. Then they did If I should Fall from the Grace of God. Quite and assortment from the many years. Some I do believe from Shane’s solo career..some more from the Pogues career without Shane.
He always had for me a bit of the look of Charles Laughton. And trouble about to happen. Throughout the concert wrestling with the mike stand. He at first stumbles about as if just awakened, and we are watching. But when the time comes at the end of a verse he will do his trademark banshee yell: “Aaaaaaiiiiieeeeaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!”
When I saw the Pogues in 1985 on Landsdown, they were the drunkest band I’d ever seen. Now Shane is the mad drunk. As with the deposed Popes on Landsdown circa 1995, fans blow air at the singer now. Dragging his foot about, and youth far behind him, like Charles Laughton in the Hunchback of Notre Dame this time. He would walk off after some numbers and another guy from the band would do a song and then Shane would come back, and each time more energized.
Someone from the audience got up and gave him a green flag that said “Pogue Mahon – Erin Gobraugh” and Shane was gentle with it, and he tried to post it on the Drum set stage, and after it fell, this looks not his forte, the crew made for sure it was displayed there.
They had a lot of songs really. Quite a variety. Seemed like they were eager to play. Pent up too long. Cause in fact these songs are just sitting around – or on electronic media -- if the Pogues arent out there. And they are quite remarkable.
Shane: Little twist and grind on Sunny Side of the Street. Probably, the biggest highlight was the Sunny Side. The band roared into the Cajun-esque opening of the song. Found it to be quite electrifying even if the all-too much pelvis swinging Shane couldn’t bring less bravado on stage. “Just dont wanta be reborn as a snail,” says Shane.
Red plastic booze cup clutched. Had the microphone chord and was ‘pretend’ strangling himself which was kind of scary. They are giving him all wide girth. For example when he is balancing a stool on his head of course to drop woodenly kerplop. It comes to a poetic climax [though many more of vast variety to follow] on Old Main Drag where old pocked Shane MacGown tosses with chagrin his ringlets as he recalls the coppers who ‘ruined his good looks for the Old Main Drag.”
The penny whistle player Spider Stacey. Chaplinesque, kind of played a counter point to Shawn. As if saying ‘Aint he a fool – but you love him’ He was the singer when Shane was away. Now he has to play straight man. But for my part [do I have a part?] I am so glad to see them together.
Shane clangs a coffee tray on his head.
“I heard a sigh, come from the docks, Saw a train set the night on fire...” Shane sings Dirty Old Town and the Orpheum [Charles Dickens, Lou Reed, Iggy Pop were here – Jack saw the latter two] becomes an English music hall. The audience [which never sits down] sings along. Some rows sway. The Pogues apply a drone that goes with the old town..which reminds one of us of lost time and Racine “... I kissed my girl by the gas works wall, dirty old town, dirty old town.”
Strange patter from Shane. Mostly too drunk and indiscernible .. “Has anyone seen ‘Brokeback Mountain?’ - a stewed Borscht Belt comedian is he, ‘Raise your hand if you saw Brokeback Mountain.’ More indiscernible but seemingly we guess concerned with natural love and catholic families, the slurred patter continues. Lot of Boston Irish her in skullies tonight.
The tale of the ship called the Irish Rover all stomp with St Patrick’s Day upon us now. The ship sinks at the end of the song.
The lineup is marvelous when they all take front. All sang save banjoist. But Finer banjoist clunkin out the changes faithful was. Drummer Ranken of constant metric. Accordionist Frearnley like an orchestra everywhere all himself. Nice suits. Chevron ? In zoot? Black suits. Nice Irish white shirts on some. A band, by golly. Including top notch show biz.
Backdrop of starry sky. Encore, encores! Dream of New York. “It was Christmas Eve, babe, in the drunk tank...” The grimiest Christmas Epic to survive the flood. Joined by a songstress with red flower in her hair, the spotlight falls on Sean and her as they dance [Will he stumble?] and snow falls from the rafters “... I could have been someone, well so could anyone.”
“You took my dreams from me, when I first found you.”
When Jack first heard the Pogues he was working a November Saturday in a little reporter’s office on Commonwealth Ave. On the radio, WGBH, it had the sound of acoustic punk. Dirty Old Town. They have continued to expand right along. They range from sad to wild. From roots to elegance. At time, they approach jazz, like Charlie Mingus or Carl Stallings, with a surreal cartoon feel. With Shane there is this big unknown. With Shane on the stage with them again, we had to try and go, and are glad, Jake and Jack, that we did. We pray: Live long, Shane.