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Concert Reviews:
The Pogues bring Celtic punk energy to Royal Oak

of the Oakland Press

Posted: Saturday, March 5, 2011

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ROYAL OAK -- It's not every band that needs protective covering over its sound and lighting equipment. Indoors.

But then again, every band isn't the Pogues, who have a fan base that's so exuberant it tends to be a bit lax with its beverages, which periodically wind up flying through the air with blatant disregard for sensitive electronics.

Fortunately, everything stayed dry and operational, except for some nasty feedback, during the Celtic rockers' sold-out concert on Friday (March 4) at the Royal Oak Music Theatre -- the group's first Detroit area appearance in 20 years and, depending on which band member you speak with, part of a final tour of the U.S.

But if the British octet was indeed delivering the "Parting Glass" that the tour's title claimed, it left on a winning note, following opener Titus Adronicus' fierce set with a typically rambunctious 90 minutes of traditional melodies delivered with punky rock energy and pub-friendly familiarity. Nearly 30 years after coming together in London, the group looked a bit weathered but still played with heart, blending its tin whistles, accordions, mandolins, mandolas, banjos and citterns into a spirited cacophony that kept the well-liquored faithful moshing, jigging and body surfing in front of the stage.

And in the middle of it all was singer Shane MacGowan, as idiosyncratic as he is iconic but on Friday in good, grizzled form as he growled his way through punchy favorites such as "Streams of Whiskey," "If I Should Fall From Grace With God," "London Girl," "Dirty Old Town," "The Irish Rover" and "The Band Played Waltzing Matilda." Someone, by the way, forgot to tell MacGowan about Michigan's public no-smoking laws, but it just wouldn't have seemed right if he didn't have a cigarette in his hand.

MacGowan was hardly the Pogues' only weapon. Peter "Spider" Stacy led the group through the poppier flavor of "Tuesday Morning," while his tin whistle commanded the lion's share of the instrumental spotlight -- particularly on the instrumental "Repeal of the Licensing Laws." Guitarist Philip Chevron sang lead on "Thousands Are Sailing," while accordionist James Fearnley provided most of the evening's visual energy.

MacGowan and Stacy wound up bashing Fearnley -- and each other -- over the head with cooking sheets during "Fiesta," an apt celebration of the push-and-pull nature of the Pogues. And maybe we will see them again; after all, MacGowan did promise that "there would be a next time -- maybe in 2031." And the tech boards will probably still need to be covered then, too.

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff


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