THE POGUES PLAY SAFE
Like the ghost of Christmas past, the spirit of Shane MacGowan haunts
the Pogues. The Pogues without MacGowan, their former lead singer, have
been described as Irish stew without the potatoes. And so it proved. Their
show at the Brixton Academy, while enjoyable, did seem to lack that certain
something. On the other hand, touring as "The Pogues with Joe Strummer",
they appear to have gained a disconcerting air of professionalism.
The lead vocals are now shared between four members of the band as well
as ex-Clash leader Strummer, and this gave the band a more cohesive feel.
The Pogues have always been more talented than some critics have credited,
and a more disciplined approach helped to display their individual talents.
They knocked out favourites such as "Fiesta," "Rain Street" and "A Pair
of Brown Eyes" (all written by MacGowan), as well as a few rock 'n' roll
standards and a version of the Clash's "London Calling," at a fair pace
(16 songs in an hour). But the crowd took even longer to ignite than the
fireworks at the end. Only when the first chords of "Dirty Old Town" sounded
did their usually vocal following begin to exercise their tonsils. The
Pogues have always plundered the stock of Irish traditional music unashamedly.
Writing tunes was never MacGowan's strong point, though his lyrics were
often touching poetry. Perhaps his mutually agreed absence because of alcohol
problems will allow the other members of the band to write more of the
songs.The Pogues are still one of the best live bands on the circuit, but
the air of danger that MacGowan brought to a performance was gone and I
missed it. After all, a well-behaved show from the Pogues is a bit like
the Wicked Witch turning up as the Fairy Godmother.
Your intrepid maintainer is DzM.