Review: The Pogues *****

Publication: Yorkshire Post

Author: Sarah Freeman

Date: December 12, 2008

Reviewed gig: Leeds, Academy December 9, 2008

Original Location: Link

In an ever changing world, it's good to have some constants. Last time I saw Shane McGowan it was the early '90s and he was shambling about on stage with the ever lovely Kirsty MacCall. By now he should have drunk himself to a merry death or seen the light and be waxing lyrical about the benefits of rehab, but never one to stick to any kind of script, McGowan has kept on going. He is a walking miracle. A man whose vital organs soak up alcohol like water.

Certainly the years of unapologetic excess have taken their toll. His complexion is now best described as cemetery grey, but while the Pogues frontman is doing his best to look like a world weary ghost of Christmas past, his voice is as powerful as ever.

Confusingly it's impossible to decipher a word McGowan says in between songs, but as he ticks off the old favourites from Dirty Old Town to The Body of an American lucidity returns. Maybe that's what they mean when they talk about the power of music.

Sadly it doesn't make him any more steady on his feet. But from the ill-judged jig just a few minutes in which left him the very definition of a crumpled heap to his total bemusement as to why the rest of the band had left the stage it was the end of the main set this is vintage McGowan.

A Pogues gig this close to Christmas wouldn't be complete without Fairytale of New York and McGowan obliges before bringing an end to nearly two hours of top-class carnage with the impossible not to like Fiesta.

McGowan once said: "the most important thing to remember is that drunks are far more intelligent than non-drunks... they spend a lot of time talking in pubs... exploring the insides of their head." On this performance it's hard to disagree.

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