Gigview: The Pogues at 02 Brixton Academy, London reviewed
Rating: * * * * *
They say if you remember a Pogues gig … you weren’t there – and so the age old problem of reviewing their concerts rears its ugly head once again.
Aching all over, stinking and with a rather fuzzy head, I know that something special happened last night on the snowy streets of South London, but putting my finger on it will be a challenge.
By the looks of the raucous swaying crowd queuing to enter the Academy, I don’t think I was the only one who thought it was my right – neigh my duty – to drink my body weight in Guinness at the local Irish pub before entering the hallowed venue.
And so it began, the umpteen members of the band took to the stage before Shane MacGowan – all dressed in black, with a cowboy hat on – stumbled amongst them.
A man of few words (that anyone can understand) MacGowan and company let the music do the talking as they set about knocking out The Best of The Pogues for just under an hour and a half.
Streams of Whiskey rather appropriately began an evening of high spirits. The crowd didn’t need asking twice, within seconds plastic pint glasses (many still full of beer) began to rain down from the heavens as the assembled throng jumped, jostled and jigged their way towards Christmas.
Sally MacLennane, A Pair of Brown Eyes and The Irish Rover had a similar affect on the five thousand or so punters who had by now forgotten it was minus five outside and begun to strip their layers off and toss them across the auditorium in the ultimate act of winter defiance.
Grab a woman, grab a man, grab anyone … note perfect the band played on as impromptu love-ins began to take hold around Brixton Academy. The booze was starting to take its toll – some hugged the person next to them because they were so moved by the occasion, others because it was nearly Christmas … but most, I suspect were simply looking for someone to stop them from falling down after a hundred units of alcohol.
There are few bands – for all their rock and roll credentials – that can inspire such hedonism. Tonight Matthew, I’m Shane MacGowan … and not just the hardcore in the front five rows, every man, woman and (child?) was living the rock and roll dream … encore, we crowed from half an hour in … the band responded in style, with two.
The calm before the storm manifested itself in the form of archetypical Christmas classic A Fairytale of New York, which the masses bellowed with such ferocious passion, there was little need for MacGowan to be on stage at all.
The calm you say – surely that was the end? What was the storm?
Dad-ada-da,dada … da-da-dada … da-da-dada … da-da-da …
Those still with any possessions left to lose after 90 minutes of vigorous jigging, it was time to say goodbye … keys, wallets, mobile phones and loose change began skidding across the floor as the crowd drunkenly partied like it was 1989.
Yes, it was Fiesta, and yes it was mayhem. Minutes seemed like hours as I – along with five thousand drunken Irish friends (for we were all Irish, and all friends for that moment) – summoned energy reserves that we really shouldn’t have had left to make sure this thing ended with a bang.
Exhausted, dazed and slightly battered, I stood in a sea of empty booze resceptacles as the house lights went up.
What had just happened? I’m not sure anyone knew … but whatever it was, it was a good thing.
Walking out onto the cold streets of Brixton, the snow fluttered down as the crowds continued partying on the pavement and in the road.
Several rather underdressed revellers had obviously failed in their attempts to reclaim the outdoor-wear they’d so urgently removed earlier in the evening … but even the man in a vest with no shoes didn’t look unhappy, for he - like all of us - had for another year been filled with a warming dose of Pogues-love …
… it’s the only Christmas present anyone needs.
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