POP / By the skin of his teeth: Marek Kohn on Shane MacGowan and the Popes
Saturday 19 March 1994
More recently, the news of his return began to circulate, with assurances of a smartened-up act. Was Shane MacGowan's destiny to enter a state of permanent contrition and spend the rest of his life apologising to people he'd never met before? If the
Jesuits don't get the boy, Twelve Steps will get the man.
But not this one. As soon as the Popes struck up 'Streams of Whiskey', the audience at the Clapham Grand, London, was in no doubt that the new Shane resembles the old one in every particular. He treats the centre spot like a place at the bar, settling in with a lager and a packet of cigarettes, detached from his surroundings and conducting himself as he pleases.
There are none of the rough diamond deliveries that secure a permanent place in the heart for the Pogues' best recordings; but much bearish snarling, in key if you're lucky.
Exactly like old times, indeed; but, on this St Patrick's Night, MacGowan was no longer in the eye of the Dionysian storm that used to possess great London dance-halls when the Pogues celebrated the feast-day. Only the ripples of that extraordinary spirit remain in the audience, and the Popes are a workman-like urban rock band that take MacGowan back towards his punk roots.
Because the studio MacGowan and the stage one are two different beings, it was impossible to judge the new songs, though it is safe to say there are no radical developments. The show finished with the old favourites. MacGowan did 'Sally Maclennane',
arguably his finest song, the courtesy of remembering all the words. With that, though, he seemed to be spent. If he hadn't announced it, 'The Irish Rover' would only have been identifiable from dental records.
An encore looked improbable at that point, but within moments he was back, giving a rousing rendition of 'Dirty Old Town'. Nick Cave then loped on to lead a duet of Sinatra's 'Life's Been Good to Me'. After a final blast of punk, a Pope tapped the Jeffrey Bernard of rock on the shoulder and pointed to the wings. If MacGowan doesn't know whether he's coming or going, how should anybody else?
Is the comedy album making a comeback?comedy
Artists unveils new exhibition inspired by Hastings beachart
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Is Gideon Levy the most hated man in Israel or just the most heroic?
- 2 Students offered grants if they tweet pro-Israeli propaganda
- 3 Satellite full of sexually experimental geckos adrift in space, Russia loses control of mission
- 4 Exclusive: Cameron’s Big Society in tatters as charity watchdog launches investigation into claims of Government funding misuse
- 5 Israel has discovered that it's no longer so easy to get away with murder in the age of social media
Fifty Shades of Grey trailer: First look at Jamie Dornan as Christian Grey
Orange Is The New Black season 3: Pornstache isn't coming back
Best movies on Netflix UK and US: 32 films that will end your endless scrolling
Fifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage from US parenting groups
Coolio has sold his soul to Pornhub
The 'scroungers’ fight back: The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
A day in the life of Vladimir Putin: The dictator in his labyrinth
Arizona execution lasts two hours as killer Joseph Wood left 'snorting and gasping' for air
Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: Ukrainian military jet was flying close to passenger plane before it was shot down, says Russian officer
Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: Massive rise in sale of British arms to Russia
Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: victims’ bodies bundled in black bags and loaded onto trains