The Pogues @ Manchester Central
performance rated with 4 stars out of 5
FOR some it’s the surreptitious opening of the first window on the Advent calendar, others the decorating of the Christmas tree or the big lights switch-on – for the last few years my personal festive season has always been kickstarted by The Pogues’ lusty rendition of the ultimate yuletide anthem, Fairytale of New York, during their annual tour date here.
And this year was no exception. As particles of fake snow and ticker tape showered down from on high while much-loved frontman Shane MacGowan unsteadily waltzed Jem Finer’s daughter Ella across the stage – grins to rival cheesy X Factor finalists Same Difference were in abundance.
Rewind an hour-and-a-half and the traditional gathering of Irish ex-pats, second and third generation Irish Mancunians bedecked in a mixture of tour merchandise, football, rugby and Gaelic jerseys keenly awaited the arrival of, U2 aside, their motherland’s premier act.
And who’d have thought that - given the scrapes roguish genius Shane MacGowan continually finds himself in – 30 years on they’d still be filling arenas up and down the land.
First of all, after catching The Pogues on St Patrick’s Day in New York earlier this year it was pleasing to see him emerge on to the stage unaided - as that night he had to been wheeled on and off the stage in a wheelchair like a rock ‘n’ roll outpatient after falling off the stage at a previous show!
Resplendent in a blood red shirt and black suit, he actually appeared the most together he’s been in years too, caustically belting out folk-punk classics like Streams of Whiskey and If I Should Fall From The Grace Of God.
As ever, the Kent-born, Tipperary-raised frontman was expertly supported by the septet of musicians who, despite countless ups and downs, have helped usher him through those three decades.
With lead guitarist Phil Chevron leading from the front supplement by a bunch of skilled multi-instrumentalists – both folk and traditional Irish – despite the onslaught of their pensionable years, I doubt there’s a better live Celtic outfit out there.
The Ewan MacColl-penned and Salford-inspired Dirty Old Town proved another highlight, while the frantic Sally MacLennane sent the front rows into po-going overdrive.
All in all, though Shane may not have the power of old, his bite and punk spirit is as evident as ever.
A campaign to railroad ‘Fairytale’ to the top of the charts from Christmas is currently underway on social networking website Facebook - never a number one first time out the looming figure of X Factor winner Leon will sadly, surely eclipse it.
If there is one contender that does deserve to poop Cowell and Co’s party, then surely the Kirsty MacColl duet is it - MacGowan turns 50 on December 25, what a way to celebrate that would be.
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