MacGowan Wows Sell-Out Crowd

Source: The Denver Post
Author: Steven Rosen
Contributor: DzM
Copyright: (c) The Denver Post 1995

I had been tense anticipating Shane MacGowan’s Wednesday night concert at Bluebird Theater.

After all, this singer – who so electrifyingly mixed punk-rock and Irish-traditional music as the singer/songwriter with Britain’s great Pogues – is known as the hardest-drinking man in show biz.

Would he be able to get through a live performance – his first in Denver since leaving the Pogues in 1991 – without collapsing? Would this be his own personal “Leaving Las Vegas?”

Not to wimp out, but the show gave no decisive evidence of that. On stage, MacGowan’s singing was slurred and raspy, and his attempts at be-tween-song conversation could have benefited from a translator. He often sipped from a red plastic cup.

On the other hand, his sound engineer apologized for a poor mix and said MacGowan, whose voice had been fine on other tour dates, may well have been drinking cranberry juice.

Further, I just don’t know how blasted he could have been to keep up – as he did so effortlessly – with the whirling, exciting pace set by his superb six-piece band, the Popes.

They played great songs, filled with celebration. Highlights included “The Church of the Holy Spook” and “Nancy Whiskey” from MacGowan’s solo disc “The Snake,” and such Pogue classics as “Dirty Old Town,” “If I Should Fall From Grace With God” and “Body of an American.” MacGowan actually was a dashing, romantic figure in person – especially if you ignore his missing teeth. Wearing dark shades and dressed in black, he clenched the microphone tightly while slightly cocking his head, letting the air from the ventilation system blow his hair.

The Bluebird show was a virtual sell-out, with more than 400 present. Most of the tables and chairs were removed from the first floor, so the crowd could waltz, pogo or just stand and shout along.

I just hope everyone there gets other chances to see him.