Punk rock drinking music of the highest order, the Pogues have reassembled with a show full of considerable vigor and professionalism. In name, they called it quits only about 10 years ago, but this original lineup barely made it out of the ’80s. The players appear refreshed from the time off and they perform with a deft command of the material; this much-needed reunion is a reminder of what a great act this Irish band once was.
Formed by Shane MacGowan, a singer with an affinity for the Clash, beer and a curious story, the Pogues never fully captured America in their first go-round. Much like the Pixies reunion, this tour is a chance for fans to pay homage and see what they missed, not so much a journey through a shared past. (We’ll leave that to the Eagles and the Stones).
McGowan could stay away from the bottle for a year and still have a bit of a drunken swagger in his vocal. He shares the vocals with others in the band, but none of the others stamp a tune with that distinctive Pogues urgency.
Then again, tin whistle player Spider Stacy’s “Tuesday Morning” received an enchanted delivery; it’s one of the few solid tunes from the Pogues’ later years when MacGowan wasn’t in the band.
“Dirty Old Town,” the band’s signature medium tempo sing-along, stands up well, and the faster material — nearly all derived from traditional Irish dance tunes — has a perennial functionality to it. Only when the occasional chorus or drumbeat echoed the ’80s was there any reminder that this music hasn’t been around forever.
Perf follows the reissue of the Pogues’ first five — and best — albums by Warners’ Rhino Records. For years, they had been issued and reissued by various companies, but over the last 15 years it never seemed as if all their discs were all in print at once. With their history documented, it’s time to move forward and generate some new material.