The Pogues Play Raucous Irish Wake at Last U.S. Show

Band perform crowd favorites at St. Patrick's Day gig

March 18, 2011 4:10 PM ET
Shane MacGowan of The Pogues performs at Terminal 5 on March 17, 2011 in New York City.
Shane MacGowan of The Pogues performs at Terminal 5 on March 17, 2011 in New York City.
Theo Wargo/WireImage

Halfway through the Pogues' St. Patrick’s Day show at New York’s Terminal 5, the band kicked into “London Girl,” a bouncy bonus track off 1985’s classic Rum Sodomy & the Lash. Frontman Shane MacGowan, wearing a black sweater with a cigarette in his hand, clutched the microphone, snarling the refrain: “This could be our final dance / This could be our very last chance.”

It may have been. The show was the final night of the Irish rockers' 10-date, six-city A Parting Glass With the Pogues tour, and their third night in New York. The band has said it is almost certainly their last U.S. run, due to the increasing costs of bringing an eight-piece band on the road and MacGowan’s unpredictable performances. “We can't always entirely trust Shane to deliver the goods," whistle player Spider Stacy recently told Billboard.

MacGowan, grizzled and largely toothless at 53, hasn’t released a new Pogues song since 1990’s Hells Ditch. He slurs his words heavily and refuses any interviews or television promotion. He’s sad to watch, considering he’s a songwriting genius who was an innovator to pair traditional Irish instruments with a punk rock attitude. Joe Strummer, who filled MacGowan’s role when he quit the band in the early Nineties, called him "one of the best writers of the century."

The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time: Rum, Sodomy and the Lash

If it indeed was the band’s last U.S. show, it was more of an Irish wake than a funeral. Before the band went on, ambulances were already parked outside the club and a woman could be seen getting carried out by security. After openers Titus Andronicus, the band sauntered onstage to the blasting music of the Clash’s “Straight to Hell,” with Stacy taking his mic wearing a Mick Jones-style cap and military jacket. They kicked off with three swift punches: rollicking singalongs “Streams of Whiskey” and "If I Should Fall from Grace With God" and the sweeping ballad “The Broad Majestic Shannon” played in front of a starry background.

MacGowan had his moments throughout the night. He soon slurred a heartfelt "A Pair of Brown Eyes," even impressing his bandmates. "Thank you Shane," Stacy said, looking impressed. "That was lovely." MacGowan offered a thumbs-up, grabbed a clear iced drink and wobbled offstage for a break.

When he left, the band proved they remain a highly charged machine that should continue playing when MacGowan can’t. Stacy delivered a stellar take of their 1993 sentimental rocker “Tuesday Morning,” recorded after MacGowan’s departure, surprisingly their highest-charting U.S. hit. They later revved-up the crowd with the instrumental "Repeal of the Licensing Laws" and guitarist Phil Chevron later belted an impassioned “Thousands are Sailing.”

Contest: Choose the Cover of Rolling Stone

MacGowan returned for the night’s biggest sing-along, “Dirty Old Town,” and “The Sick Bed of Cuchulainn,” featuring time-shifting, crash-and-burn rhythms. As the band hit the last note, he threw his stool to the ground, and then picked up his mic stand and impaled it into the stage.

The show’s two-encore homestretch was even more raucous, featuring “Sally MacLennane” and the classic standard "The Irish Rover" dedicated to late Dubliners singer Ronnie Drew. Returning for a second time, MacGowan emerged with a bottle of white wine, howled "Paddy Works on the Railway" and then 1988’s "Fiesta." He imitated his same wobbly gestures from the original music video while Stacy banged his head aggressively with a beer tray. MacGowan guzzled half of the bottle of wine, and as the band played the final notes, picked up a tray and started banging it into his head, too. It felt completely wrong to watch, but also like the only way the band could go out.

To read the new issue of Rolling Stone online, plus the entire RS archive: Click Here

Music Main Next

blog comments powered by Disqus
Around the Web
Powered By ZergNet
Daily Newsletter

Get the latest RS news in your inbox.

Sign up to receive the Rolling Stone newsletter and special offers from RS and its
marketing partners.


We may use your e-mail address to send you the newsletter and offers that may interest you, on behalf of Rolling Stone and its partners. For more information please read our Privacy Policy.

Song Stories

“Whoomp! (There It Is)”

Tag Team | 1993

Cecil Glenn — a.k.a., "D.C." — was a cook at Magic City, a nude dance club in Atlanta, when he first heard women shout "Whoomp — there it is!" Inspired by the party chant, he and partner Steve "Roll'n" Gibson wrote a song around it. Undaunted by label rejections, they borrowed $2,500 from Glenn's parents and pressed 800 singles, which quickly sold out in the Atlanta area. A record deal came soon after. Glenn said the song was meant for positive partying. "If you're going to say 'Whoomp there it is,' and you're doing something negative, we'd rather it not have come out of your mouth."

More Song Stories entries »