For the first time since 2005, the Pogues are not touring in the US around March. For 3 years in a row, it was an annual ritual for my friends and I (and sometimes my brother) to go see the Pogues right before Patty’s Day. These shows were always a blast, and sometimes chaotic.
I can’t say that I’m surprised that they’re not touring. In fact, I’m surprised that Shane MacGowan is still alive. The singer might be second to Keith Richards in terms of rock excess. We were always relived when MacGowan came on stage. It didn’t matter you could barely understand him, or that he slurred his way through the vocals. Up until fall 2005 when I bought tickets for the first show, I would never thought I would see the Pogues live.
If you’ve never heard of The Pogues (and to me this seems odd) they’re pioneers of Celtic-rock bands such as Flogging Molly and Drop-Kick Murphys. But where the other bands seem to emphasize the rock aspect more, the Pogues played more like the Chieftans on speed and MacGowan’s talent as a song-writer towered them above their peers. A lot of their music does revolve around drinking – but it’s also both personal and political. It’s fitting when the cops in The Wire held a wake they gathered together in a bar and blasted “Body of An American”. It’s triumphant. It’s sad. And it’s about drinking. And it has a great sing-along chorus: “I’m a free-born man of the USA!”
Perhaps more than any other band I’ve listened to, the Pogues always seemed like a gang. A gang from Ireland where your best mates are also your enemies. When you become too close you implode. But you can never really leave and you’re always welcomed back with open arms. How many times has Shane MacGowan been kicked out? Does it really matter? He’s singing now and chugging whiskey on stage just like the old days. When The Pogues toured these past few years, it had the hint of nostalgia for sure – nostalgia for a world that doesn’t exist anymore.
Body of An American: