I’d never seen either the Pogues or Shane McGowan in concert before this, and thought I probably never would — certainly not a reunion of McGowan with the rest of the original Pogues. But the impossible happened, and the Pogues played a stirring set of their classic songs March 5 at the Congress Theatre, including almost all of my favorite album of theirs, If I Should Fall From Grace With God (but not “Fairytale of New York.” Too seasonal? No female vocalist?). The band sounded great, and McGowan was – well, McGowan. Slurred singing, just right for the songs. Impossible-to-understand comments between the songs, prompting lots of people to say “huh?” I laughed at McGowan’s drunkenness, then felt bad afterward. It’s really a sad spectacle to see him these days. His face looks like it’s sagging, in the same way as Brian Wilson’s face, though the damage comes from different causes. It was hard to tell how drunk he was, how much of his seeming stupor is just the long-term effects of years of alcoholism. But somehow, he manages to sing all the words (as far as I could tell). And the drunkenness gives the music the reckless quality that it needs. I just read that McGowan may be getting married. I hope he’s in better shape than I fear. He is a true poet.
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