TEETERING WITH POETRY
There were many moments Thursday at Metro when Shane MacGowan's ability to stand up without wobbling, let alone remember his bawdy, boozy, bloody lyrics, was open to question.
Apparently MacGowan's legendary bout with the bottle carries on. When he raised the first beer to his lips, the crowd let out a roar, in tribute to the spectacle of a man drinking himself into a stupor.
During a nuclear version of, of all things, the Swinging Blue Jeans' "Hippy Hippy Shake," MacGowan did the twist and shouted, "You shake it to the right," and thrust out his left hand, "You shake it to the left," and reached out with his right. He didn't so much stand in place between songs as list like a leaky sailboat, his attempts at audience banter were slurred into gibberish, and he performed Neil Diamond's "Cracklin' Rosie" without once apologizing.
Yet the Irish poet-he's that good of a songwriter-righted himself when it came time to deliver the musical goods. MacGowan wrestled with the themes that have always obsessed him-booze, guilt, sin, redemption, the transience of love, and booze-as though ripping open old scars, his gnarled voice as damaged as his romanticism is pure.
Touring for the first time without the band he founded in the early '80s, the Pogues, MacGowan has recruited a new outfit, the Popes, just as inflamed with rock 'n' reel raucousness. In contrast to the rather refined production on his solo debut album, "The Snake," MacGowan approached the concert like the Johnny Rotten acolyte he once was.
Indeed, the Popes barely touched on "The Snake" material and instead revisited the Pogues' songbook, largely written by MacGowan, including classic early fare such as "Dark Streets of London," "A Pair of Brown Eyes," "The Sick Bed of Cuchuliann" and "The Irish Rover."
Flanked by guitar, bass, banjo, tin whistle and fiddle, MacGowan clung to the microphone as though trying to stand his ground in a hurricane. Drummer Danny Heatley pushed the band hard with slamming polka beats and martial roles, and the downtrodden themes were transformed into celebrations.
Openers the Bogmen lathered on stream-of-consciousness blather with
a stage presence heavy on goofy, frequently annoying, amiability. With
his falsetto voice heavily reinforced by reverb, singer Bill Campion strived
to make light of dark themes ranging from the end of a relationship to
the end of the world. The band's chattering rhythms and rubbery, feel-good
songs suggested that this East Coast sextet will soon be scrambling to
help the Dave Matthews Band and Blues Traveler fill the post-hippie void
left by the Grateful Dead.
Your intrepid maintainer is DzM.