The Pogues, o2 Academy, Glasgow
Star rating: ***
When The Pogues announced that this eighth consecutive Christmas tour was to be their last, it prompted assorted charges of cashing-in, marketing spin and inter-band bickering.
Perhaps in a bid to refute all this, their proficient and rowdy Glasgow set of rarities and time-honoured favourites seemed wilfully long and over-eager to represent good value.
It was drawn-out to almost two hours, thanks to some unwarranted instrumentals and encores not wholeheartedly called-for: despite no great stampede, the Celtic punk legends counted on a second curtain-call to deliver the inevitable – if ever-wonderful – Fairytale of New York.
Shane MacGowan’s upright appearance contrasted with recent reports from a Dublin show (during which he reputedly fell about and had to perform propped up on a box) but there were several breaks in the gig – hence the musical interludes – while the ravaged frontman left the stage “to comply with the licensing laws”. If MacGowan’s endurance was uncertain his voice was reassuringly present: his tattered, glorious croon was especially affecting on And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda – a highlight from their infamous 1985 album, Rum, Sodomy and The Lash, and an unexpected, compelling inclusion in their live set.
There were also triumphant, teary sing-a-longs for A Pair of Brown Eyes and Dirty Old Town, during which you could barely hear the singer’s ragged carolling above the crowd.
MacGowan is one of rock’s great icons, but like fellow Stiff Records alumni The Blockheads, The Pogues are also a rock-solid backing band. They always support Shane; never out-shine him. Behind the singer, a back-lit constellation served to remind that The Pogues contains many stars.
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