Where Streams of Whiskey are Flowing

23 March, 2008

If there was anything that annoyed my friends in college, it was my ardent love for the Irish folk-punk band, the Pogues. It was the most godawfulwonderful stuff I’d ever heard and probably still is. The frenetic accordian music, the gritty lyrics, Shane MacGowan’s drunken slurring and the random screaming all combined to bring out the wildman in me, and I loved it.

You remember that foul evening when you heard the banshees howl
There was lazy drunken bastards singing Billy is in the Bowl
They took you up to midnight mass and left you in the lurch
So you dropped a button in the plate and spewed up in the church

More than anything, I wanted to see the Pogues live. But then in ’91, the Pogues threw out their lead singer and songwriter, Shane McGowan, for being an incorrigible drunk. It was a window closing… though I might someday see the Pogues, they would never be the same without their frontman.

the pogues

Some years ago I did get to see Shane MacGowan and the Popes live at the Commodore. At the time, I thought that would be the closest I would ever get to experiencing a full-on Pogues concert. But then a few weeks ago, I saw that the Pogues would be playing a concert in Boston. I knew it would be the Pogues without Shane, and I debated whether it would really be worth it… but I had seen Shane elsewhere, and I figured this would be my opportunity to see and hear the rest of the original band. So I bought my ticket and waited for the day.

I met my love by the gas works wall
Dreamed a dream by the old canal
Kissed a girl by the factory wall
Dirty old town
Dirty old town

On the way to the Orpheum, I played some Animal Crossing on my DS. I fished a bit, and ended up catching… an old boot. Somehow, that seemed like an appropriate omen. It was going to be an awesome show.

The wind it comes down and I can’t stand the chill
That comes to the streets around christmas time
A bugger to the nation and I haven’t got a penny
To wander the dark streets of London

I arrived at the Orpheum, which is kind of like what the Orpheum in Vancouver would look like if it were to suffer several decades of neglect. But that gives it a fair amount of character, so I give it a firm nod of approval. I bought a pint, found my seat (only 6 rows from the stage) and settled in.

There was a screen to one side of the stage, showing commercials and blurbs about upcoming shows. Then they showed a panel, “The Pogues,” and listed the band members. Right at the start was Shane MacGowan. Could it be? Could he be back with the band again? I didn’t dare let my hopes get up… for all I knew, someone had just grabbed the names off one of the earlier albums and didn’t know the difference.

I sat through the opening act, and then, finally, the Pogues came on stage. Sure enough, it was a grizzled Shane who staggered on stage with his glass in hand. They launched straight into Streams of Whiskey, and then Broad Majestic Shannon. I was on my feet and dancing up a storm for the rest of the show.

Did you keep a watch for the dead man’s wind
Did you see the woman with a comb in her hand
Wailing away on the wall on the strand
As you danced to the Turkish song of the damned

The show was great. Shane sounded as harsh as ever, and the rest of the band was solid. They played mostly early stuff from the first two albums (Red Roses for Me, and Rum Sodomy & The Lash) with only a few songs from later albums, which suited me just fine. They never took any breaks, but Shane did occasionally stumble offstage to let Spider Stacy, Philip Chevron and Andrew Ranken each sing a song of their own.

Well Jimmy played harmonica in the pub where I was born
He played it from the night time to the peaceful early morn
He soothed the souls of psychos and the men who had the horn
And they all looked very happy in the morning

They played all the songs I would have wanted them to. The crowd roared along with them for Body of an American, and I bounced around like crazy during Sally MacLennane. It was great! We each have a few bands that we absolutely have to see live before we die. For me, the Pogues was the biggest name left on the list. I don’t know if I’ll ever get the chance again, and it makes me shudder to think I almost passed it by this time, not knowing the whole band had reunited.

What a great show. And I didn’t even understand a goddamn thing Shane said all night.



  1. Dan, if you haven’t yet heard Gogol Bordello, do so. Immediately.

  2. And at the risk of being suspiciously snarky. do you think they’re just cashing in on the nostalgia circut before Shane’s liver explodes? I mean it’s been 10 years since I saw him with the Popes and he was in really rough shape then….

  3. He was definitely looking haggard and worn, but you know, there was no mistaking that they were all really happy to be there. I think those guys all love what they do, and it’s probably feels good to get together as the Pogues again, a couple times a year.

    Gogol Bordello huh? I’ll check ’em out!

  4. great band indeed

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