October 13, 2009
Better Than: Finding a four leaf clover ... and then sobering up and realizing it's just a three leaf clover.
There were two kinds of Pogues
fans last night at The Warfield
: the fans that wound up at the center of the dance floor, and everyone else. Of course there was occasional cross-pollination between these two broad categories throughout the night. But in general, the fans at the center--which by song one had turned into a surging, sweaty, pit-loving, fist-pumping mob of mostly very large men--stayed there for the band's whole set.
These guys (and the occasional gal) knew what to expect from a Pogues show even before the lights dimmed. They knew before the five enormous security guards puffed up their chests to prepare themselves as band members took to the stage. They knew before lead vocalist, the lovingly self-destructive and toothless Shane MacGowan, stumbled and mumbled his way to the front mic clutching a red plastic cup in one hand, cigarette dangling from the other. They knew that when the accordion struck that first Irish chord, a lurching, debaucherous, brotherly kind of chaos would ensue. And anyone stuck on the floor who didn't know what was coming was either happily swept into the typhoon, or promptly spit out onto the sidelines.
Clothes flew, beer flew, people flew -- and during the band's faster jigs, only the fittest survived standing. But The Pogues' music isn't the type one might generally associate with moshing. It's traditional Irish folk music, perhaps spiked with a small dose of The Clash. Plenty of crowd members preferred to watch the ruckus from high in the balcony areas, where they could enjoy the music without worrying about being pelted in the head with a cup of beer.
The Pogues themselves are graying around the edges, but still plenty feisty. Guitarist Phil Chevron, who rejoined touring with the band after battling and defeating throat cancer, dated himself when he took to the mic and after commenting on the impressive venue, saying: "This is the very spot where Vaudeville died. We've been trying to resuscitate it ever since." If Vaudeville had crowd surfers, we'd say they've definitely succeeded. In any case, the band plays with plenty of gusto and attracts an eclectic, mixed-ages audience because of it.
That being said, band members didn't perform any particularly spectacular antics that might whip your average crowd into a frenzy. But this rowdy crew would have rallied had the Pogues sat on stage and meditated. They went nuts every time the energetic, bald accordion player slid across the front of the stage in his shiny red suit pants. They even cheered when front man MacGowan, who appeared to be totally plastered, muttered indecipherable sweet nothings into the mic between songs--that is, when he was on stage. He had a habit of wandering off and then reappearing again, with or without his sunglasses. We heard more than one audience member express surprise that he's still alive. Nonetheless, the crowd loved him, loved the show, and even appeared to love each other - no matter how many bruises they accrued from that love.
If opening band, Devotchka
, wasn't good enough to stand on their own, I would say that their use of the theremin might bring them up to par. But since they bowled the crowd over with talented musicians of every kind their use of the theremin trampled par with a pair of beautiful flamenco dancing shoes.
Personal Bias: There were admittedly more than just two types of fans who came to see The Pogues last night -- for example, there were also Pogues veterans and Pogues virgins (as a first-timer Pogues show attendee, I was definitely in the minority). Then again, I suppose that's what the mosh pit is for: to happily smash those kinds of categories into sweaty smithereens.