Shane MacGowan's fall from grace

Publication: Evening Standard

Author: John Aizlewood

Date: December 19, 2008

Reviewed gig: London, Brixton Academy – December 18-20, 2008

Original Location: Link

The Pogues
Carling Academy Brixton
Stockwell Road, SW9 9SL

rated with two stars out of five

Now in its sixth year, the Pogues’ Christmas tour is undeniably part of the festive fabric. That last night was the first of three Academy shows suggests genuine public demand means we’ll meet again same time, presumably same place next year.

Joy of joys, seven of them were on sterling form, rolling back the years and replaying their youth, be it James Fearnley, the remarkably spry accordionist, or Spider Stacy whose tin whistle could bring the comatose out of a coma.

Alas, the eighth Pogue was Shane MacGowan. Now, I know it’s a miracle he’s actually here, I know he’s one of the most poetic lyricists of the late 20th Century, etc etc, but he’s become a bore.

Watching him oafishly slur away his legacy and casually desecrate his own beautiful creations as he has done in the 20 years since the third Pogues album, If I Should Fall From Grace With God, is no longer sad or tragic, it’s pathetic.

Ewan MacColl’s Dirty Old Town and MacGowan’s masterpiece Rainy Night In Soho survived intact, simply because he was outsung by a crowd not entirely composed of teetotallers.

Astonishingly indulgent, they applauded him whenever he put a bottle on his head (it always fell off) and whenever he muttered something unintelligible between songs, although, frankly, you’d get more sense out of a pint of Guinness.

At one point I couldn’t tell whether he was attempting Sayonara or Sunnyside Of The Street, he seemed unfamiliar with his own Sally MacLennane and when the feisty Anna Finer (daughter of Pogue Jem) joined him for the still stunning Fairytale Of New York, he couldn’t be bothered to get even the call-and-response right and, as the fake Christmas snow descended disconsolately, the night was lost.

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Transcribed and made available by Zuzana.