Friday, February 22, 2013


The Pogues changed Irish music across the globe.  While there was always an element of rowdiness, Tommy Makem and The Clancy Brothers were safe enough for the Ed Sullivan Show, and fit in well with the folk world.  The Pogues turned it into punk.  Now, for many people, Irish music means The Dropkick Murphys in the U.S., The Mahones in Canada, music played raw and rough and liquor-soaked.  And fast.

Even in France, they love The Pogues, and that's where this 30th anniversary concert was recorded.  All hands were on deck for the September 2012 shows, including the wayward Shane MacGowan, convinced to show for this big event.  MacGowan sounds in, well, I won't say fine form, how about just..form.  His ravaged voice is as much the sound of the band as the fantastic, energetic playing.  Sounding, somehow, a little more gruff than usual, he eventually loosens up the vocal chords to a fine growl, and all is right.  But my son, new to the band, came into the room and said, "I can't understand a word he's singing!"  And then between songs, he said "I can't understand a word he's saying!"  Neither can I sometimes.

Of course, I could understand Dirty Old Town, the Ewan MacColl tune that first won the band fame.  It got them a great reception in Paris too, and brought the best line from the stage too:  "Oh, you like that one here?  Of course you do, it was written by a communist."  The 90-minute set here includes a full 30-minute encore, were the band gives it all, and shows why we love them.  Rainy Night In Soho is a grand MacGowan modern ballad, for the Irish in New York.  Ella Finer stands in for the late, lamented Kirty MacColl on Fairytale of New York, so much more than a Christmas song.  And to wrap it all up, the only Mexican-Irish party tune ever written, and the only one you'll ever need, the raucous Fiesta.  Happy 30th, you unique and crazy bunch.  Shane, really, don't ever change.  Come back anytime.

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