The Pogues

Publication: City Life

Author: Byron Evans

Date: December 14, 2008

Reviewed gig: Manchester, MEN Arena – December 13, 2008

Original Location: Link

A FEW thousand people gagging for a knees up are in the busiest entertainment venue in Europe to hear a bunch of middle-aged men play some big mandolins, banjos, accordions and a tin whistle.

This may be a new age of digital music but, for one night at least, the M.E.N. Arena is hosting an old fashioned Christmas concert that would rival the rowdiness of any punk gig.

I'm stood next to three generations of Celtic fans frantically throwing shoes, jumpers and empty wallets at that perennial pretty boy of rock n' roll, Shane McGowan. His signature toothless smile that could sink a thousand ships flashes to the crowd baying for his affection. He's uninterested in the new wardrobe that litters his feet. He's put on that much weight he'd never get any of it on. Instead, he bangs the drummer's cymbal like a deranged child who's drunk too much pop.

Then in a moment of clarity he realises he's in Manchester and slurs into the microphone “Dirty Old Town was written about Salford”. The floodgates are released – let the pogo-ing commence.

We are all singing along pretending to know all the words, but it doesn't matter because Shane doesn't. After repeating the same verse over again, Mr McGowan hits the deck like a sack of spuds. Without hesitation, he's picked up, dusted down and put in front of the microphone without so much as an embarrassed glance at the audience.

The crowd don't care he can barely stand, never mind sing – they're just chuffed to bits he's still alive.

Over an hour and a half into their set and it's the second encore. Finally, the greatest Christmas song every written – Fairytale of New York – starts. Now Christmas is officially here.

At this point it strikes me that it's incredible how so many people can be so sozzled when more beer was thrown in the air than down people's throats. The Pogues are a brilliant technical band whose loose cannon of a frontman may be a hindrance – but no one would pay to see them without him.

The Pogues' name is short for Pogue Mahone which is Irish Gaelic for kiss my a***'. Enough said.

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