The Pogues

I was down the front of the crowd. There was surprisingly not much of a crush, and lot less younger people than I had expected, so chances of being smashed in the face were relatively low. This was in part due to an unfortunate seating arrangement in the Crossroads and Mojo tents, which meant crowds often built up heavier outside the tent, chairs blocking the way in. I'd just come from Mojo, where John Butler was playing, and was ready for some Celtic rage after an angry encounter with a woman in the seated area (of which I feel slightly guilty about now, but I was enjoying leaning on that pole).


Lights went down and The Pogues walked on the stage. A cheer went up as the lighting burst back on, and they opened with the sure-fire ‘Streams of Whiskey' after a somewhat unintelligible introduction from Shane MacGowan. They powered through favourite ‘If I Should Fall From Grace With God' next, playing strong and well, but it was soon after this things started to feel a bit uneasy. Personal issues aside, the crowd in general were growing anxious, as although all other members of the band had spotlights shining on them, Shane remained a step back, singing from a darkness in the centre of the stage. A flawless rendition of ‘A Pair of Brown Eyes' lifted spirits, and ‘The Broad Majestic Shannon' followed well, but soon after Shane took his glass and walked crookedly off the stage, leaving a confused crowd and a nervous-looking band. Spider took the lead, and while this all looked prepared, the crowd could only offer weak applause to Shane's re-arrival for ‘And The Band Played Waltzing Matilda'. The songs were all perfect though, and next time Shane left for Phil Chevron's Dubliner-dedicated rendition of ‘Thousands Are Sailing', the feeling was gone, the crowd now assured Shane would return. What happened after this was really the highlight of the whole day.


Shane returned back on for ‘Dirty Old Town', and by now the band was really hitting their stride. Applause grew, and surly members Terry wood and Jem Finer seemed more at ease, while James Fearnley thew his head back and ran around the stage yelling and swinging his accordion. ‘Sickbed of Cuchulainn' reached a high, and ended with the mightiest encore cheer I'd heard all weekend (it was half an hour early!).


The encore set somehow got even better, with an absolutely superb rendition of the crowd-swaying ‘Rainy Night in Soho', and the blood-pumping ‘Sally MacLeanne'. Spider was screaming his ‘FAR AWAY'-s like a possessed man, and mimed slitting Fearnley's throat with his tin whistle. The band surged through the wheeling ‘The Irish Rover', while Shane's cigarette was a glowing pinpoint in his centre stage shadow.


Following, the second encore set was shorter but just as fierce, consisting of ‘Poor Paddy' and the aptly-titled ‘Fiesta', with Shane joining Spider in smashing a beer tray onto his head, and ending the night by spilling whiskey down his open mouth and shirt. Despite concerns for his well-being, I was truly proud to witness what was the finest Pogues gig I will probably ever get to see. Listen, and listen loud.

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