The Pogues @ The Academy (Birmingham)
London-Irish punk balladeers The Pogues have reformed. They played Brum's Carling Academy on December 17th 2004.
He's not dead yet. Smiles spread across the faces lining the balconies. Three songs in and Shane MacGowan is still standing, still singing.
Downstairs, in the sold-out Academy, the crowd are roaring their approval, spilling their drinks and leaning on each other. We're not dead yet. The younger audience members are jumping up and down.
Then Cait O'Riordan, runs onto the stage and sings I'm A Man You Don't Meet Every Day. Her voice is strong and clear and slurring Shane, just for a moment, cuts a slightly sad figure, tired and old and deflated.
Next A Pair of Brown Eyes and Shane is awake and centre-stage, louder and clearer, singing:
"One summer evening drunk to hell / I stood there nearly lifeless / An old man in the corner sang / Where the water lilies grow..."
Shane takes a break and Philip Chevron does his Thousands Are Sailing. MacGowan returns for a thumping sing-along Body of an American. A huge cheer greets Dirty Old Town - the Academy has sung the first verse before Shane gets started.
It's a classic Pogues line up - Spider Stacy, Jem Finer, Philip Chevron, Terry Woods, Andrew Ranken, James Fearnley and Darryl Hunt combined with MacGowan's lyrics and charisma is a powerful mix.
Then The Sick Bed Of Cuchulainn:
"There's devils on each side of you with bottles in their hands / You need one more drop of poison and you'll dream of foreign lands…"
A glorious noise, The Pogues own these songs.
Dancing Cait O'Riordan is back on stage for Sally MacLennane and a brilliant, shambolic Yeah, Yeah, Yeah, Yeah, Yeah.
The Irish Rover and Boys From The County Hell rush by. During Fairytale Of New York foam 'snow' falls and Shane and Cait waltz around the stage.
I'm pleased to report that The Pogues are still entertaining, still vital. An experience like no other - great songs, great front-man, great band.
They close on Fiesta:
"Come all you rambling boys of pleasure / And ladies of easy leisure / We must say Adios! until we see / Almeria once again."
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