by Ol’ jimmy from Siobhan
I’d like to begin this review with a small message for our American readers. And that message is this:
Oh, look at us. We’re the United States. We’re big and powerful. We have most of the money in the world. We grab all the headlines. Our military could conquer Canada 50 times in a week and still have enough time for a relaxing weekend in Bermuda. We have the Dropkicks. We have The Tossers. We have Flogging Molly. We’re the centre of the universe!
Well, let’s just be clear here: Terry Woods and Phil Chevron just did a tour in CANADA. And it rocked both folk and punk ASS.
I mean, The Mahones were awesome, they always are. The Peelers kicked ass. The only real let-down was Siobhan, who played some of the worst music I had ever heard. I mean, I don’t want to be cruel here, but these guys were worse than Creed. They make Creed sound like the Mahones. But anyway, let me get down to the nitty-gritty, the real stuff. The Pogues.
On each night, Terry, Phil and their bad-ass Irish accordion player, James, followed up the Mahones’ set with an acoustic set of their own. This set included some tunes I’d never heard, such as beautiful instrumental “The Lament for Grosse Point” and “Brave New World”, a rousing folk number. And each night, they turned the house lights down, and Phil sang Thousands Are Sailing in an “Unplugged” style.
This was the song that first roused my interest in the Pogues, the song that started me on that long, dark, and drunken road to having a band. And to hear Phil himself sing it was beyond incredible. Shane was great on the album, but seeing this old, frail man sing his own song (on North American soil, even!) gives the tune a whole new power. He also did another song of his, “Faithful Departed”, a Radiators From Space tune that has become an underground classic in Irish music.
The Mahones jumped on stage again as the backing band, and out came “If I Should Fall From Grace With God”, “Young Ned Of The Hill” and “Gartloney Rats”, among others. Those of us in the room who understood what was going on were mesmerized, while those who had never heard the Pogues were amazed to hear Irish music being played so well, better then any band in Canada or the U.S. does. Terry’s fingers absolutely flew on the bouzouki, and his concertina work was masterful. Occasionally, when the sound was bad, I would turn to a band-mate and say, “I wonder if the sound guy realizes he’s fucking up the bouzouki sound for one of the five best players in the world.”
In the end, the shows were magical, and we all have Finny MacConnell from the Mahones to thank for organizing them. The last time Terry and Phil were on this continent, they were playing to five or six thousand people a night, and here they were, in dark underground clubs and halls, playing their hearts out to anyone who would listen. They weren’t trying to get famous, they were trying to show people what Irish music could and should be.
I’ll never forget seeing these guys, and getting to play banjo with them on “Gartloney Rats” is something I’ll take to my grave. But the experience was also humbling for all of us who play this music: there are still giants across the broad Atlantic who play far better than we do. Leave it to the Pogues to put a bunch of Canadians in their place. Health to you, boys, and don’t stay away too long.
-Ol’ Jimmy (whose efforts to get Phil to say “Oooh Terrence! You farted!” in a high pitched, squeaky voice were sadly in vain)