Live Reviews

The Pogues – Live

Brixton Academy

It’s easy to be cynical about the Pogues these days, given that Shane MacGowan’s mob haven’t released any new material since they first reunited in 2001. But whether they’re in it for the money or not, it is undeniable that their stirring Irish folk/punk hybrid brings out the Christmas spirit in tonight’s sold-out, Guinness-gulping crowd.

First, the Holloways deliver a spirited performance, despite the largely disinterested crowd. Their double-speed cover of The Clash’s ‘Bankrobber‘ does earn them a few extra brownie points, but following ‘Generator‘ (their best known song) with a load of non-descript guitar jangling isn’t the best of ideas for a finale.

Rare are the occasions tonight when Shane MacGowan’s between-song banter can actually be understood by anyone who’s still sober enough to try. During the songs, however, his heartfelt slurrings are boosted by the sound of a four-thousand strong choir – and it’s doubtful as to whether the Academy has seen a more impassioned sing-along than that which greets ‘Dirty Old Town‘. Ultimately, the Pogues were always a band of the people, and tonight is proof enough that they haven’t lost that common touch.

Playing for nearly two hours can result in a musical marathon in the wrong hands, but neither band nor crowd are lacking in energy or enthusiasm. It is, of course, ‘Fairytale Of New York‘ – featuring guest vocals from that receives the loudest of cheers, as clouds of fake snowflakes descend from the rafters. As a horn section are brought on for a raucous finale of ‘Fiesta’, it’s hard to imagine a finer way to round off a year of gig-going.

Alex Gosman
Photo by Sheva