The Pogues – o2 Academy Newcastle – 14/12/10

Posted on December 20, 2010

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The Pogues’ Christmas tours are always highly anticipated events, and they are always crammed to the rafters with a mix of old, slightly sagging, hard-nut punks, said saggy punks’ terrified looking kids and people looking for a good time with a legendary band.
Generally there’s a great atmosphere at Pogues gigs but tonight the audience’s goodwill begins to dwindle rapidly as the clock marches past the band’s stage time. After half an hour, the booing starts, by forty five minutes the end of each song playing out over the PA is met with an immediate cheer and clapping, turning into ever more tense heckling when the next song starts up. By fifty minutes people can be overheard asking the door staff about refunds and the general atmosphere away from the dancing drunks down the front is one of tension and doubt.
An hour after the original stage time however, the lights finally dim to the tune of The Clash’s Straight To Hell and the crowd is placated once more. Still when you’re charging arena prices for a sold-out midlevel venue, an hour is too long to leave people waiting, even if you do have a reputation like Shane MacGowan’s.
Moving on with a quick apology, the majority of the band rush onto the stage, followed a brief moment later by MacGowan, and launch into the now traditional show starting duo of Streams Of Whiskey and If I Should Fall From Grace With God. For his part, Shane still turns in a decent performance, although years of substance abuse have blunted the edge in his voice somewhat and he audibly struggles with some of the more complex melodies like London Girl. It’s at these points that you really can’t help but wonder what The Pogues would be doing in the new millennium if MacGowan had straightened himself out in the period after he left the band.

As such it is the gentler moments which really shine, with A Pair Of Brown Eyes and a beautiful rendition of Rainy Night In Soho providing a real heart to the set. Still, the rest of the band are incredibly tight and polished, making sure big hitters like Sally MacLennane, The Sick Bed of Cúchulainn and Body Of An American stir the crowd into a well-deserved frenzy.
Unsurprisingly the highlights of the night are gigantic sing-alongs to Dirty Old Town and Fairytale Of New York. The latter still brings goose-bumps with its opening bars and always makes for a brilliant end to a festive concert, even one marred by lateness and the song omissions that are inevitably incurred.
A mixed bag of an evening then, but by the end of the night The Pogues have won the majority of the crowd back on side. There are still some disgruntled faces, likely belonging to those relying on the last of the night’s public transport to get home, but with the news that this could be the last festive tour from Shane, Spider and the boys it’s just as likely that when the next chance to see them comes along it’ll be the same faces queuing up at the ticket office.

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