REVIEW: The Pogues/Echo Arena, Liverpool
AN EVENING with Pogues frontman Shane MacGowan must generally have you sitting on the edge of your seat.
Would he be propped up, throw up, or even turn up, as one woman anxiously enquired at the door of the Arena where he was performing last night. Fortunately only the latter, mostly, was a yes and he was in fine physical form. He’d lost the new set of teeth he’d been previously been seen sporting, but he was trim, with a fine mane of chestnut hair, and a voice as gloriously fierce and gravelly as ever. He was also sporting a piratical black eye patch, which he may or may not have attributed to a lost fight with a beer glass – his brief addresses to the audience were grumpy and quite impenetrable.
But here’s the thing with Shane MacGowan – he might be listing at 40 degrees to the horizontal but once he grabs that mike, music transforms him.
He started fast and furious with If I Should Fall From Grace and then a passionate Broad Majestic Shannon. After song four, A Pair of Brown Eyes, he ambled off stage, the first of five or six inexplicable absences throughout the night. But his talented eight, sometimes 10-strong band including brass, coped admirably with the tin whistle player taking centre stage. Oh Kitty My Darling was beautifully stirring and Shane spat out the words to the fierce Boys From the County Hell, making it a highlight.
Dirty Old Town and encore Irish Rover were huge hits, sung in the whisky-roughened voice of someone who’s lived. Rainy Night in Soho was heartbreakingly gorgeous.
Last night was probably the closest you get to an Irish pub sing song as you get in the Arena. The audience danced, sang, heckled – earning some expletives from Shane and a steady stream being thrown out – and in a half full venue which Shane commented we could burn down afterwards, you couldn’t help yearn to watch them in packed, sweaty spit and sawdust pub instead. Last night we were on the edge of our seats, mostly, for all the right reasons.
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