Tag Archives: The Popes

Shane MacGowan and the Popes – 930 Club Washington, DC (May 8, 2002)

Come to think of it, maybe I HAVEN’T ever seen Shane play with the Popes. In all the times I saw performances by the legendary songwriter, he stood apart from the band and the audience alike, dribbling out lyrics as they came back to him, showing no sense of ensemble performance, stage presence, or the intelligent and elegiac lyricist who made the Pogues my favorite eighties band. Never did I see him dance about, beat the drum-set whimsically, or clown with a towel on his head and a necktie in his head.

Resisting the urge to ape some Dublin vernacular after the amazing show I just saw at Washington, DC’s nine-thirty club would be harder if Shane hadn’t impressed me so thoroughly. Articulate and dynamic, Shane owned the songs he covered as masterfully as those he wrote. Hank Williams’ “Angel of Death” and Ewan MacColl’s “Dirty old town” both afforded hiim opportunities to sing on key and he made them his own by holding their notes with tuneful conviction.

Likewise, material he coathored with the energetic Popes fared well because they all had some kind of understanding that he was no longer some poster child for irish intemperance and they were no longer a backup band, lucky enough to record with a legend who could get them gigs; rather, they rallied to champion rousing (and rowdy) numbers like “Mother Ma Chroi”, “Donegal Express”, and “More Kicks Than Pricks”. If some of my old favorite Pogues songs were missing from the setlist, I minded less because I knew that the catalogue of the present band was earning it’s audience, chord by rambunctious chord.

Still, the auld ditties never came amiss to my sentimental ears, and hearing Behan’s Auld triangle sung in the clearest voice I have ever heard from Shane nearly brought tears to my eyes, and the exquisite buzz of the “Sickbed of Cuchulain” managed that, even as it made me dance. missing songs like “A Pair of Brown Eyes” and “Sally Maclenane” number among those I’ve often heard live. Rarer treats like “Body of An American” and “Bottle of Smoke” made this show extra special. Seeing them performed with such robust enthusiasm and good humor took this performance to a new level.

If this review strikes the reader as too personal an experience to give the reader a fair idea of what (s)he might have heard for himself, consider how personal Shane’s writing tends to be; whether moping into a pint glass over jukebox songs about love or celebrating an epecially good run of odds in “Bottle of Smoke”, these are songs which bear singing along because everyone in that club demonstrated a sense of personal communion with Shane. Everytime is the first time when dealing with an erratic genius who could come back from decrepitude and the loss of a longtime girlfriend, and we got some first class entertainment in the bargain. That’s as personal as it gets, and his offer to name a street, he’ll name you a bar and walk miles to buy you a jar rang true at every turn.

Review by Peter Burris

Shane MacGowan and The Popes – Wulfren Hall, Wolverhampton UK (March 18, 2004)

Had been looking forward to this one for a while and was pleased to find out that it was in the Wulfren Hall and not it’s bigger and less intimate sibling that is the Civic Hall as I’d suspected. We arrived late on in the evening having stopped in a couple of local hostelries for a meal of Arthur Guinness’ liquid lunch rather than pay the exorbitant £2.80 a pint (that’s approx. $5). Because of this we missed the support NECK whom I’m not a huge fan of anyway. Unfortunately at all the other gigs on the tour except ours, support also came from THE FAMILY MAHONE, hosted by singer and drummer Mark Radcliffe; one of the UKs top Radio DJs. Check ‘em out if you like Pogues type drinking songs. Supremely good and funny as hell live.

So we missed the support and got pissed on cheap stout. Looked like a few people in the venue had done the same. Quite a few drunks and quite a few Glasgow Celtic t-shirts too. Average age was about 32 so at 35 I didn’t feel too old.

Well now… gigs in the UK seem to be starting earlier and earlier these days. Great for the kids… great for getting the last bus out of town. Not Mr. Tombstone Teeth himself though. He made us wait and I’d guess that there was a fair bit of teasing judging by the occasional band-just-walked-onstage cheers coming from the auditorium. We made the wise decision of hanging around in the bar until the first chords strike out at which point we find a comfortably empty corner.

First think I notice is how well Shane looks tonight. He appears to have lost some weight since I saw him last July. He’s not even drunk!!! In fact so sober is he that he stands throughout the set even though his chair is present. Last time I saw him at the Holidays in The Sun punk festival he remained seated throughout although he’d didn’t look like he’d be capable of staying in the chair so pissed was he.

The venue is all but sold out tonight so at a guess they’re playing to about 500 people. This hall has notoriously bad sound problems but these have the good grace to stay away tonight so all instruments and vocals sound crystal clear. Well, as clear as Shane is these days.

We get a heavy biased Pogues set tonight with only the Donegal Express and maybe three of four other tracks (none of which I recognise but guess that they are post The Snake Pope tracks.) An early showing of Dirty Old Town is dedicated to Kirsty and results in the usual arms aloft singalong. A fine moment as always.

There’s no way I can remember all the songs played since I was well on my way to being one over the gallon at the time. What I do remember is thinking how lacking in spirit it all sounded. Almost as if they were just going through the motions. I think this was in some part to do with the sound levels though it struck me towards the end just how much that tin whistle sound can raise a tune from good to great. Such a powerful instrument in the right hands. Don’t get me wrong… this wasn’t a bad gig. It just wasn’t a great gig. It had some great highlights, for me two of my favourite songs; “Sally Maclennan” and “Wild Cats of Kilchulan”. One thing I would have enjoyed would have been the spine tingling version of the “Auld Triangle” that he played at HITS. We also get “Pair of Brown Eyes”, “Broad Majestic Shannon”, “Turkish Song of The Damned”, a number of other Pogues greatest hits and the only really low point of the gig was a murdered version of another of my all time favourite songs. It was on the way back from a piss break that I heard a song “unknown” to me. It was only in the fade out chorus that I finally realised they were covering “Me And Bobby McGee”. Absolutely ghastly! His voice was so slurred that it was virtually incomprehensible.

So! What a night… it was a gig that had everything. The good, the bad and the downright fuckin’ ugly. Enjoyable as ever but not at his best.
Review by Mark (Rock ‘Em Dead Records)

The Popes: Release The Beast

Just a quick review here. The Popes (Without Shane) have released a double album. Disc 1 is live. Disc 2 is the previously released “Holloway Boulevard”. Don’t know about you, but I already have the fantastic “Holloway Boulevard” and I have a few bootlegs of The Popes, so this album wasn’t exactly a priority. If you never got around to buying “Holloway Boulevard” the first time around, now is a good time to do so, cuz with the additional live album it’s more than worth it.

November 2014

Review by: Brian Gillespie