Talking about Shane MacGowan without mentioning booze is like talking about Sonny and forgetting about Cher. But Thursday night at Tramps, MacGowan appeared to be the least liquored-up person in the joint (in fact, the only thing I SAW him drink was Evian--at least that's what the bottle was). This crowd was the most intoxicated, noxious bunch I've ever experienced--and I've seen Ozzy. Dodging puddles of puke and guys so drunk they were literally walking into walls (and me), Tramps had all the ambiance of a frat house.
After a relentlessly chirpy and ENDLESS set by the opening band (sorry boys, lucky for you I missed your name), MacGowan and the Popes took the stage 'round midnight. Shane was skinny and perfunctory. There was nothing wrong with the show, but our boy didn't put a whole lot into it. Perhaps he was ill (he kept sitting down between songs), maybe he was just lazy. The Popes played their little hearts out, as Shane clung to the mike and recited the lyrics. At one point he half-heartedly admonished the crowd to "fuckin' dance," but that was the most animation we saw all night--at least on-stage. Offstage, however, it was Irish funeral flashback time. Worse than any LSD, visions of drunken relatives fighting and crying in their whiskey filled my head. It was mighty ironic that the same knucklehead, Teva-wearing jocks who were wildly pogoing and slamming drunkenly into others at the show probably would've kicked a teenage Shane's ass if they'd gone to the same high school.
MacGowan and the Popes played a mix of solo and Pogues stuff--the highlight being a fab rendition of the Neil Diamond classic, "Cracklin' Rose." There was the predictable glut of songs about booze, which of course, the bonehead element loved. I kept hoping that he'd bring out Sinead and they'd do my fave song off the new record, "Haunted." But isn't that just like a girl? In the tradition of the great Irish poets before him, MacGowan does weepy love stuff best.
It's always a bad sign when you leave a show feeling cheated--and I didn't even pay for my ticket! (Rumour has it that Friday's show was twice as long and much better.) It's too bad that Shane live didn't come close to measuring up to his record, but I'll give him another chance. The big debate over MacGowan's sobriety is a bit of a non-issue and very much his own business, but I'd love to see him rise above being the patron saint of the intoxicated.
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