First of all, I am probably the biggest Pogues fan on the whole planet. I have all their studio CDs, EPs, singles, live CDs, bootlegs, videos, DVDs, etc. (near 100 different factory-pressed things, including Shane MacGowan solo stuff).
Unfortunately, I began to love the Pogues way after they split, so I have never had the chance to see them live. They did some reunion shows, but it was always very far from where I live (England/Ireland in 2001, England/Ireland in 2004, Japan/England this year). Being from QuÃ©bec, Canada, this would have cost a lot of money to see them.
However, I had to go to France on the last week of August and the first of September. My plane tickets were already bought when I heard that they were doing a show in Spain. I didn't hesitate to take a 10-hour car drive detour and give 50 euros in order to see them.
Okay, now about the show.
It was called the Azkena Rock Festival. It was the fourth edition of this two days festival. The first day had Deep Purple, Social Distortion, Wilco, and the Dwarves just to name a few. I wasn't there. The second day had the Pogues, Queens of the Stone Age, Bad Religion, Television, and more.
I was lucky enough to hear the sound check of the Pogues (not see them, just hear) since I came early to buy my ticket. They did "Danny Boy" instrumental and "If I Should Fall From Grace With God" (they did probably more, but I heard only those two). They sounded good, and at least Shane MacGowan was able to sing! This was looking good...
I came back later for the real show. Though I love many of the bands mentioned above, I was there only for the Pogues, so I didn't see any other band (except a bit of Television and Bad Religion).
The Pogues played after Bad Religion and before Queens of the Stone Age, and it was the complete, original line-up: Shane Macgowan - vocals, Spider Stacy - Tin Whistle, James Fearnley - Accordion, Philip Chevron - Guitar, Terry Woods - Cittern, Jem Finer - Banjo, Darryl Hunt - Bass, and Andrew Ranken - Drums.
I deliberately missed all other bands to make sure to be in the first row, right in front of Shane MacGowan (there were two stages). Before the members came in, one sound guy brought a chair right next to Shane's mic, which scared me by believing he was not able to sing while standing up anymore. Fortunately, that chair's only use was to hold Shane's drinks (which was a big glass of gin, by the way). The audience was kind of mixed up. There were some old-time fans like me who were there only for the Pogues (we were all near the stage) and some others who were just waiting for QOTSA (who probably said "who the fuck are they?," "it's supposed to be a rock festival," "that guy has the worst teeth I have ever seen"). But when they started with "Streams of Whiskey," every Pogues fan out there were like in a dream. People were dancing, singing, drinking and having lots of fun. Even though they were a lot older now, every member seemed in really good shape, even Shane MacGowan. He was, of course, drunk, and it was difficult to understand him between songs, but I've seen him in a lot worse condition in the bootleg shows that I have. He was even holding the mic with his hands (something I have never seen him doing on the 8 DVDs I own). For example, on "If I Should Fall From Grace With God," he screamed from the top of his lungs while holding the mic with his two hands! On "Turkish Song of the Damned," he did all the screaming at the beginning of the song (like on the remastered version).
MacGowan also sometimes mimed the lyrics of his songs. On "The Old Main Drag," he moved his leg on "... and kicked in the balls." On "If I Should Fall From Grace With God," he showed three fingers on "It's coming three, boys." With "A Rainy Night in Soho," he pointed to the sky and then the ground during "Some of them fell into heaven, some of them fell into hell." He even played the maestro at one time and blessed the audience using some gin!
The other members were as great as 20 years ago. They all sounded really good, and they almost all sang one song (Woods, Stacy, Chevron, Ranken). They only made a small mistake on the "White City" bridge and on another one that I can't remember. James was still the most energetic with his accordeon, but Philip was in top shape on guitar even though he looked a lot older than the others.
As expected, they played songs mainly from their first three albums (Red Roses for Me, Rum Sodomy and the Lash, If I Should Fall From Grace With God) and a few from the last two albums with MacGowan (Peace & Love, Hell's Dith). They played only one song from the Shaneless area (Tuesday Morning).
There were some funny moments, like when Shane broke his glass by throwing the mic at it, or when he spilled his drink holding it with one hand (without being aware of it). He also forgot/changed/confused some lyrics here and there, but not as bad as his last days before being kicked out the band (1991). But there were some magical moments also! The highlights being the romantic "A Rainy Night in Soho" (with such beautiful lyrics) and "Fiesta," the latter being played in the country where it was made to be played. They were supposed to end with this song and play "Sally MacLennane" as the before last (I grabbed Shane MacGowan's set list after the show), but Philip Chevron confirmed on the pogues.com forum that they thought they didn't have enough time, so they skipped "Sally MacLennane" only to be told they had time for it. They also played some of my personal favorites like "Body of An American," "Boys From the County Hell," and "A Pair of Brown Eyes."
The only deception was the absence of Cait, which prevented us from having "I'm a Man You Don't Meet Everyday" and the ULTIMATE Christmas song "Fairytale Of New York." I would also have liked to have "Dark Streets of London," "Sayonara," "Rain Street" and some more, but hell, they couldn't play them all.
Here's the complete set list:
- Streams of Whiskey
- If I Should Fall From Grace With God
- Boys From the County Hell
- The Broad Majestic Shannon
- Young Ned of the Hill (sung by Terry Woods)
- Turkish Song of tThe Damned
- A Rainy Night in Soho
- Tuesday Morning (sung by Spider Stacy)
- White City
- A Pair of Brown Eyes
- Repeal of the Licensing Laws (instrumental)
- The Old Main Drag
- Thousands Are Sailing (sung by Philip Chevron)
- Body of an American
- Lullaby of London
- Dirty Old Town
- Bottle of Smoke
- Sickbed of Cuchulainn
- Star of the County Down (sung by Andrew Ranken)
- The Irish Rover
- Sally MacLennane