A Fairytale in Manchester
YOU could be forgiven for thinking this is an exercise in making easy money for The Pogues — reuniting every December to play a tour of greatest hits, mostly written more than 20 years ago.
In many ways you would be right, but you would also be guilty of being among the most miserable of cynics.
It is surely beyond irony that frontman Shane MacGowan, responsible for penning the greatest Christmas song ever in A Fairytale Of New York, was born on Christmas Day, the gateway to a prolonged period of excess.
Well, following an entertaining 'best of' set from veteran punks The Stranglers, Shane surprises everyone by turning up on time, almost, in his terms anyway, bounding on to the stage and ripping through the likes of If I Should Fall From Grace With God, Turkish Song of the Damned and The Sick Bed of Cuchulainn , as well as remembering virtually all the words to the more tender ballads such as The Broad Majestic Shannon and A Rainy Night in Soho.
The Pogues are very rarely given credit for being the highly skilled group of musicians they are, with tin whistler and second vocalist Spider Stacey, guitarist Philip Chevron and energetic accordion player James Fearnley especially worthy of mention.
The atmosphere is great, everyone knows the words and sings along, with Ewan MacColl's Dirty Old Town, complete with Shane sounding his most tuneful in 20 years, almost bringing the house down.
Old and rarely played songs such as Poor Paddy and Kitty, both from debut album Red Roses For Me, are thrown in to prove that the band really does work at this and, as always, they finish with Fairytale and Fiesta, with Shane finally forgetting some words and, appropriately enough, falling over into the drum kit. It wouldn't be Christmas without him.
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