The Pogues fall from grace at HOB

A review of The Pogues at the House of Blues on Friday, March 11

, Managing Editor

At this point in their career, most know of Shane MacGowan’s checkered history with The Pogues. At times, he’s been one of the greatest songwriters on the planet and at times he’s been a fall-down drunk. MacGowan has been fired, the band has broken up, reunited, and now it appears The Pogues are headed towards calling it quits once again as they are in the midst of a short spring tour to share “a parting glass” with their fans. The Pogues’ performance obviously relies heavily on the condition of MacGowan, and unfortunately for fans who took in their Friday show at the House of Blues, it appeared the singer had already checked out.

Strolling on stage in a plain, old, rolled up sweatshirt and sunglasses, the frontman looked less like a rockstar and more like the smelly guy sitting next to you on the Orange line. He greeted fans with something along the lines of “Grr Everen” (Good Evening) and continued his indecipherable speech through set opener “Streams of Whiskey”. Although the show started off shaky, there were signs of hope as MacGowan let out several of his famous “Rawhide”-esque yelps during “If I Should Fall from Grace with God”.

The band itself was tight though seemingly timid as they remained mainly static at their respective positions throughout the show. Accordion player James Fearnley was really the only member to explore the stage as he dashed back and forth for many of the upbeat numbers and perched himself up on the drum riser for the close of “Repeal of the Licensing Laws”. Still, despite their excellent sound, the band’s lack of energy and MacGowan’s inconsistency kept their audience from being truly engaged. It took until the last song of the night (“Fiesta”) for the band to seem like they were actually having any fun as Spider Stacey traded in his tin whistle for an aluminum baking sheet which he used to add to the rhythm section by bashing it over his head repeatedly in humorous fashion. MacGowan actually joined him with a sheet of his own as the band took the song to the close.

Unfortunately, the band never came close to matching the spirit of “Fiesta” at any point in the rest of their set and, although they had their moments, the ups and downs kept the show from being decent, and instead, a disappointment. MacGowan delivered in hits like “A Pair of Brown Eyes” and “Dirty Old Town” but his mumbly, disinterested offerings in cherished tracks like “Body of an American” and “Sally MacLennane” were overly frustrating. MacGowan’s presence on stage spelled inconsistency, so his departure for several breaks was actually a sigh of relief, as the band was able to take full control of their sound. Stacy charmed with one of their biggest hits, “Tuesday Morning”, while Phil Chevron produced quite the sing-along as he took the mic for “Thousands are Sailing”.

What The Pogues have in Shane MacGowan is the old case of “can’t live with him, can’t live without him”. They tried for years to carry on without their iconic singer but it just wasn’t the same. With MacGowan you have to take the good with the bad, but there’s just too much of the bad these days. Although, with their breakup in close sight, it doesn’t seem to matter at this point.

It’s always tough to see a band end their run, especially one as beloved as The Pogues, but after their performance here in Boston it seems as if the time is right.

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