Seeing the Pogues in 2011 is usually done for the wrong reasons. Who knows, maybe Shane will peg out anytime soon, this may be the last opportunity etc. In reality, this gig, held in the grounds of the Royal Naval College on the banks of the Thames in Greenwich, was an ecstatic affair like few others. Everywhere you looked, there were huge grins on faces, almost everyone was jigging around on the Greenwich turf, and very few were not singing along to a well-rehearsed set that included every song… but one.
As the band came on stage, a veritable troupe of performers numbering anything up to 11 or 12 (can’t remember precisely), Mr McGowan himself came to the fore, a trifle unsteady on his pins but seemingly in fine voice. He didn’t miss a single cue, nor forget any words, though he did drink from pints of a clear liquid placed on stand for him. Every so often he would vanish to allow other members of the band to take the limelight, and each time he did another pint of said liquid would be in his hand.
In truth, for all their anarchic image and the many stories that do the rounds, the Pogues are a very professional group of musicians, excelling at their craft. The songs are what it’s about though, and here they did not disappoint. It was definitely a greatest hits collection, including, among many others, A Pair Of Brown Eyes, Dirty Old Town, A Rainy Night In Soho, Turkish Song Of The Damned, The Band Played Waltzing Matilda and The Body Of An American. But the magic truly started with two inspired encores which started with the glorious Sally McLennane and finished with a fine version of Fiesta, where Shane and Spider Stacey banged tin trays on their heads and the horn section did a conga around the stage.
Truly memorable from start to finish, but they did not, could not do THAT song. The ghost of Kirsty MacColl loomed large, may she rest in peace.