Songs and merriment but not a drink in sight

Publication: The Irish Independent

Author: Eamon Sweeney

Date: December 24, 2008

Reviewed gig: Dublin, RDS Main Hall December 22, 2008

Original Location: Link

Shane McGowan and the Pogues gave the fans what they came to hear by belting out a classic set list from their first three albums.

FOR a sixth consecutive year, the Pogues festive roadshow gives their fans an annual excuse to sing, drink and be merry.

Sadly, the barn that is the RDS isn't the ideal locale to enjoy the spiky delights of a band once memorably described as the Sex Pistols meeting the Dubliners on speed. In fact, it sucks for one simple and straightforward reason -- you can't have a drink and watch the band.

For an act with a strong drinking culture like the Pogues, this is akin to getting thrown out of a butchers for eating meat. On the plus side, Shane McGowan is both looking and sounding well, resplendent in a classy black coat. I've seen the man clutching the microphone stand for dear life far too many times to mention. On one woeful occasion, he 'performed' from a wheelchair. Thankfully, we get Shano in fine fettle and there isn't a drunken self-parody in sight.

And there isn't a new song in sight either, as McGowan belts out the classics with a set list that focuses on their first three albums. Indeed, 'The Body of an American' is a telling reminder of Nick Cave's theory that nobody writes better song openings than McGowan. It really doesn't get better than the likes of: "The cadillac stood by the house/ And the yanks they were within / And the tinker boys they hissed / 'Hot-wire her with a pin'."

Philip Chevron recently commented that the only way to keep enjoying doing what they do is to avoid making a new album. Of course, the crowd really couldn't give a fiddlers, as the raison d'etre for this show is a seasonal rendering of the greatest Christmas song of all time.

'Fairytale of New York' is a tune that resonates more with every man, woman and child in this country than the official national anthem ever will. It's a sweet version and in that moment the RDS is the best place on earth to be, despite the shocking bar 'facilities'.

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