Live Last Night: The Pogues


The terrible beauty that is Shane MacGowan was born 51 years ago. But the brilliant and blatantly tragic Pogues frontman has given his body, or at least his liver and teeth, to his craft. MacGowan looked at least three times his actual age when he came to the 9:30 club stage on Tuesday, wearing a dark hat and smoking the first of a dozen or so cigarettes while helping a sold-out crowd cap off its St. Patrick's Day celebration.

But the music and all the boozy and deserved huzzahs the fans threw at him and his marvelous band had a Benjamin Buttonesque impact on MacGowan. By the time he launched into the funeral/party song, "Body of an American," early into the 90-or-so-minute set, in fact, MacGowan could have even passed for a live human being.

(Read the rest of the review after the jump.)

Not that MacGowan ever looked like anything other than damaged goods. During "Sunny Side of the Street," he fumbled with the microphone stand while attempting to pound it on the floor to the drummer's beat, and couldn't muster the coordination to pick up the mic when it fell. And diction-wise, MacGowan's between-song banter made Ozzy Osbourne sound like William F. Buckley.

But if synchronized stage moves and intelligibility are your bags, stick to the Backstreet Boys and Kenny Chesney CDs, respectively. If it's passion and songwriting genius you want, stand by the Pogues. MacGowan provided chills going hard -- spewing profanities in "Poor Paddy (on the Railroad)," a song about an Irishman 's life of labor -- and soft, as he warbled "Pair of Brown Eyes" and "Rainy Night in Soho."

The enraptured crowd, whose members flaunted their Irishness by wearing green fezzes and Boston Celtics jerseys (most commonly honoring that favorite son of the old sod, Larry Bird), behaved and chanted like benevolent soccer hooligans all night long.

They screamed approval as MacGowan showed off his lovable, buffoonish side during the set closing "Fiesta" (a word that apparently translates to "party" in Gaelic, too). MacGowan attempted to match tin whistle player Spider Stacy's antics by picking up a drink tray and smashing himself in the face with it. Stacy at least kept the beat with his prop; MacGowan just looked like he was hurting himself.

-- DAVE MCKENNA

The Pogues complete their three-night stand at the 9:30 club tonight. Tickets are available.

By J. Freedom du Lac |  March 18, 2009; 1:06 PM ET Live Last Night
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