Shane MacGowan and The Popes At the Olympia Theatre

Source: Evening Press
Author: Roderick O’Connor
Contributor: Ingrid Knetsch
Copyright: (c) Evening Press 1994

A Dublin audience was unable to contain its wanton abandon last night when Shane MacGowan and his new band The Popes took the Olympia Theatre by storm – they promptly smashed up rows of seats in the venue. From the time he went on stage at 1.30am until 80 minutes later, at least two dozen recently refurbished seats at the theatre were destroyed in an evening of furious music and riotous dancing. Up to 10 security men crouched on the stage front, barely containing the crowd. So wild was the dancing that several people were plucked from the audience and ejected with no small force via the side of the stage. The venue was packed to capacity for the first full-length lrish concert by MacGowan and his band. The audience came to see lreland’s leading straight-from-the-heart songwriter in the flesh, and in return MacGowan threw his all into the late-night performance.

Though MacGowan fans are doubtless aware of his sometime short comings when delivering lyrics live – he was, after all, booted out of the Pogues – their presence last night was an act of faith by those who believe he still embodies the spirit and devil-may-care style, which was at the heart of The Pogues. And the fact that his recently released first solo album, The Snake, was a real cracker was not insignificant in drawing them in either.

In the event, MacGowan was in top form, singing in time and in key, despite an often terrible sound quality. Raucously raising the roof were irreverent guitar-blasted numbers from the new album, such as The Church Of The Holy Spook, I’ll Be Your Handbag and That Woman’s Got Me Drinking. But old favourites were there too in the shape of Dirty Old Town, Sally MacLennane and The Irish Rover. Showing no timidity in blasting it out when required, backing band The Popes were also in form when it came to the few ballads and quieter numbers, including Gerry Rafferty’s Her Father Didn’t Like Me Anyway.

Ending an exhausting evening was the incomparable Fairytale Of New York, for which MacGowan was joined by sister Siobhan. The Olympia hasn’t seen a night like it for a long time.