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Ex-Pogue Wild Spirit Blasts into Philly with His Popes

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Source: An Scathan
Author: Bill Nevins
Copyright: (c) An Scathan

PHILADELPHIA — An old friend returned to Celtic-punkrockers Nov. 10 when Shane MacGowan, absent for several years, returned to stage at the newly-reopened Electric Factory, here.

The former Pogues frontman/songwriter/heart-and-soul, called “the Keith Richard of Irish music” by many, gave a blasting, blistering performance with his new band, The Popes.

The hall was packed and the people were revved by opening act John Doe Thing’s hard-edge rockabilly. A spontaneous mosh pit formed in front of the stage where young guys, and a few brave young women, slammed each other gleefully to reels and jigs and hornpipes played loud, fast and at ear-splitting volume.

Shane kept up his Pogue persona: neat, clean-shaven and looking like a younger Brendan Behan. He was swigging beer and chain-smoking while he growled out the lyrics and hugged the microphone stand for support. Shanehit all the Pogue hits and plenty of the grand new songs from his triumphantnew CD, “The Snake,” not missing a word of his clever and often profound word play.

The man is a literary genius disguised as a more dissolute Johnny Rotten with an Irish rebel attitude. His fans have always known that about him, and loved him for it. And he disappointed no one with this return to the concert stage.

Fans who love Shane also worry about him — just how long can anybody live that lifestyle and survive? But he is still around, and still crafting the most wonderful songs of anybody writing in Celtic pop. (Christy Moore has covered several in calmer, lovely versions, though that elder Irish bard has commented that he “couldn’t go to the gig” in Shane’s wild style.

Word is that Elvis Costello, Joe Strummer and other strong survivors of the 1970s punk explosion are looking out for Shane’s basic health to the degree possible — they know we have a treasure here, not to be lost. Then again, he wouldn’t really be Shane if he weren’t Shane, would he?

The Popes were great –powerful, tasteful and they never upstage the showman.

Chuck Berry would have loved them, and song for song, Shane surely is the “Irish Chuck.”