YouTube Live: The Pogues get sentimental

The Pogues are truly one of a kind. Combining traditional Celtic music with the anarchy of punk, albums such as Red Roses for Me and If I Should Fall from the Grace of God are classics. Shane McGowan, the flawed genius behind the band’s signature sound, is an amazing songwriter. Say what you will about his teeth, but the man had a way with words. His lyrics showcased a rare wit, touching on topics as diverse as drinking and politics. Unfortunately, his own drinking got the better of him, and his unreliability led to his departure from the group in 1991, leaving co-founder Spider Stacy and the others to carry the Celtic torch.

“Fairytale of New York” is probably my favorite song by The Pogues, so when I stumbled across this concert outtake from St. Paddy’s Day in 1988, my Irish blood danced in a field of four leaf clovers. The Pogues are one of those,“I wish I’d seen them in their prime” bands, and performances such as this are about as close as I’ll get. Not only are we treated to the young band at the height of its popularity, but the lads are joined onstage by the voice that made the lyrics, “you scumbag, you maggot, you cheap, lousy faggot,” sound so classy – Kirsty MacColl. Sadly, MacColl died in 2000, and although others, such as Sinead O’Connor have done an admirable job in her place, it’s just not the same. The intense dynamic between McGowan’s drunken swagger and MacColl’s attractive charm is the stuff of legend, and not easily duplicated. Their interaction is the heart of the song.

Some say The Pogues were comprised of several musicians and one rock star. Whether that’s true or not is debatable, but Spider Stacy, Jem Finer and the rest of the band do take a backseat in this video. The camera pans between close-ups of McGowan and MacColl, intermingled with more minor glimpses of the other band members and a very interactive audience, resulting in an intimate performance that any fan of the group will savour.

MacGowan appears to have cleaned up his act a bit, and The Pogues are once again on tour. I’m hoping they make it to Canada, but if they don’t, I’ll have to make do with these little gems on YouTube. Q Magazine had it right when they voted The Pogues as one of the bands to see before you die. So without further adieu, pour yourself a pint and check out this wee bit of magic from the days of rum, sodomy and the lash.


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