Publication: The Daily Telegraph
Date Published: Friday, December 13, 1991 
By: David Cheal
Section: Pg. 14

Like the ghost of Christmas past, the spirit of Shane MacGowan haunts the Pogues. The Pogues without MacGowan, their former lead singer, have been described as Irish stew without the potatoes. And so it proved. Their show at the Brixton Academy, while enjoyable, did seem to lack that certain something. On the other hand, touring as "The Pogues with Joe Strummer", they appear to have gained a disconcerting air of professionalism.  The lead vocals are now shared between four members of the band as well as ex-Clash leader Strummer, and this gave the band a more cohesive feel. The Pogues have always been more talented than some critics have credited, and a more disciplined approach helped to display their individual talents. They knocked out favourites such as "Fiesta," "Rain Street" and "A Pair of Brown Eyes" (all written by MacGowan), as well as a few rock 'n' roll standards and a version of the Clash's "London Calling," at a fair pace (16 songs in an hour). But the crowd took even longer to ignite than the fireworks at the end. Only when the first chords of "Dirty Old Town" sounded did their usually vocal following begin to exercise their tonsils. The Pogues have always plundered the stock of Irish traditional music unashamedly. Writing tunes was never MacGowan's strong point, though his lyrics were often touching poetry. Perhaps his mutually agreed absence because of alcohol problems will allow the other members of the band to write more of the songs.The Pogues are still one of the best live bands on the circuit, but the air of danger that MacGowan brought to a performance was gone and I missed it. After all, a well-behaved show from the Pogues is a bit like the Wicked Witch turning up as the Fairy Godmother.

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