Written by Jim Bille
Oct 29, 2009 at 08:00 PM
ImageTraditional Celtic punk fusion rockers the Pogues have been there and now back again with a surprise 9 city tour of the US that included a stop at the House of Blues last Thursday night. I knew I’d need at least a day to recover from what I expected could turn into at least a 6 Guinness Stout night so I scheduled a vacation day from my real job on Friday. I’m glad I did…I needed it.

If you’re not familiar with the Pogues try to imagine The Chieftains on steroids, crystal meth and single-malt whiskey with an accordion and banjo mixed in – and you still might not get it. Rough, raw and potent are other ways to describe the Pogues music. Their revved up traditional Celtic sound is infectious and certainly slam dance and mosh pit worthy.

The musical pub crawl kicked off with a somewhat stumbling Shane McGowan on vocals, opening the show with a number called ‘Streets of Whiskey’ from their 1984 debut release ‘Red Roses for Me’.

High energy was ignited throughout the crowded house with this number and the second tune ‘If I Should fall from Grace with God’ as the Pogues immediately took control of the venue’s soon to be raucous crowd.

This incredibly tight sounding performance featured something from all seven Pogues releases. Highlights from the set included ‘The Broad Majestic Shannon’, ‘Boys from County Hell’, and ‘The Sick Bed of Cuchulainn’. My personal favorites from the evening were probably ‘Young Ned from the Hill’ and ‘Thousands are Sailing’.

Each musician took their turn on vocals as well as instrumental solos throughout the show.

To the untrained ear, Shawn McGowan’s accosting vocals were nearly unintelligible most of the time. Had his words been shown in subtitles on the big screen overhead, the sometimes politically charged lyrics might have incited a few brawls. But mostly the Pogue’s music is about hard drinking, hard living, love, loss and desperation at a high level.

James Fearnley almost single handedly stole the show with his frantic accordion playing, bouncing and sliding from one side of the stage to the other at any given moment. Originally a guitar player with Shane McGowan’s early band called The Nipple Erecters, Fearnley switched to accordion when joining the Pogues.

Spider Stacy’s vocals were spot on as was his trademark Pogues tin whistle playing that augments most of the music; and Jem Finer’s banjo and sax playing was as over the top as ever.

Terry Woods, who was a founding member of Steeleye Span was also on hand playing the cittern, a mandolin type instrument dating from the Renaissance era.

Philip Chevron joined the Pogues shortly before the band’s second release ‘Rum Sodomy & the Lash’, and has been the guitarist ever since. While playing his acoustic Martin flat top, Chevron is also featured on many of the vocals.

Darryl Hunt was added to the Pogues line-up after original bassist Cait O’Riordan (Elvis Costello’s wife) left the band in 1986. Along with Jem Finer and McGowan, Hunt has also penned many of the bands songs.

Rounding out the ensemble and maintaining the band’s driving and hearty beat was Pogues veteran Andrew Rankin on drums.

The final song of the evening was ‘Fiesta’. McGowan took this opportunity to play to the crowd by pouring a bottle of wine down his throat from about arm’s length above his mouth while Spyder Stacy kept time with the music by continuously banging a baking sheet on his head.

This song was a fitting end to one of the most entertaining and energetic shows I’ve seen in a long time and the Pogues is one band I’ve waited to see for about the last twenty-five years.

If you get the chance, you should check these palookas out next time they come to town and see for yourself; and if you don’t agree, you can Pogue Mahone !!!