Friday, March 11, 2011

This St. Patrick’s Day visit might be it for the Pogues

Last call?

By Jim Sullivan
Friday, March 11, 2011 - 
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When St. Patrick’s Day nears, the Pogues come a-calling.
It’s a ritual in American Irish strongholds such as Boston. The veteran Celtic-punk group greases the wheels and gears up for a U.S. tour. This year’s was initially to conclude at House of Blues on the day itself, March 17.
The problem: That was amid the Dropkick Murphys’ seasonal skein of shows at the club.
“We did the right and dutiful thing,” said Pogues accordionist-mandolin player James Fearnley, from his Los Angeles home. “We were the elder statesmen, saying, ‘All right, here you are lads, it’s your town.’ They’re nice guys and deserve every success. I wish I could be there for their gig.”
Instead, the Pogues — fronted by temperamental, sometimes intoxicated singer Shane MacGowan — play their sold-out shows tonight and tomorrow. The octet, which formed in London in 1982, spearheaded the Celtic-punk movement with such songs as “Streams of Whiskey” and “Boys From the County Hell,”something for which the Dropkicks are forever indebted.
It’s been 21 years since the Pogues and MacGowan recorded new music. In fact, they really only exist for Christmas shows in the UK and St. Patty’s shows in the United States. This 10-gig tour has been dubbed “A Parting Glass With the Pogues.”
Herald: Is it really farewell this time?
Fearnley: I don’t know. Some of it feels like we’re reaching the end, but at the same time, we can’t not talk about making a record. Maybe the next incarnation might be predicated on making a record. Otherwise, what’s the point? You just go around playing stuff from a different, but not so irrelevant, era.
You all live in different countries.
We don’t have the luxury of proximity. Although it wasn’t a luxury at the time — we had no money. But the Pogues were a product of a really intense, geographically small locality, King’s Cross. You could actually narrow it down to a few buildings, where we came from. We could say, “All right, we’ll meet and knock some things around.” Now, that can’t be done. It has to be more organized.
I love hearing the band live, but the material is so old, it’s almost like hearing a museum piece played out.
It’s funny you should say “museum piece.” Somebody joked a few years ago that we should call it the Antiques Pogues Show. That’s what it is. But why else do people get back together for a reunion other than to play the stuff that made you known for in the first place? We’ve been doing the reunion thing for 10 years.
Does Shane have new songs?
He might have a load of ideas for songs. They came about, sometimes, when Shane had the songs in his head and they went down beginning to end. Most of them, though, they needed a huge amount of work. He would come to rehearsal and then Jem [Finer, banjo player] and myself would tease it or tweak it. It’d be like the three of us figuring it out with a few people chipping in here and there. And a couple others going off to the pub ’cause it was so boring.
Shane’s troubles with alcohol are legendary. How is he doing now?
Last time I saw him was at Christmas. One of the gigs in Dublin wasn’t catastrophic, but it had a few catastrophic elements where he got completely plastered and staggered across the stage. He had to have somebody sit behind him to hold him up. Ironically, it made everybody else in the group play so much better because otherwise the whole thing would go to [expletive].
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