Back in November, in my review of Frank Skinner's return to Birmingham I was highly critical of the suitability of the venue, the NIA Academy. So it was interesting to gauge the atmosphere at The Pogues annual festive show in Birmingham.
Having ditched the venue of the last two years gigs, the aforementioned NIA, the band returned to Birmingham’s other Academy, that which carries a lager advert in its name. Or the old Hummingbird to those from a bygone age. The difference couldn’t have been starker.
The Pogues rabble rousing songs, like the Skinner laughter, are lost in an arena, but within the more cramped, sticky carpet and low lighting atmosphere of the Dale End location, the gig takes on a life of its own, where the crowd are part of the show rather than just spectators.
The ever present concerns regarding Shane McGowan’s health were proved to be unfounded as the frontman spat out the first words to “Streams of Whiskey”. While his between song banter was as ever, unintelligible, his song delivery was damn near perfect. In fact it was the best performance I had seen from him in some time, good news indeed for the legions of fans in attendance, to whom chucking beer about and pogoing around like some ’76 punk is considered reasonable behaviour for a Sunday evening.
The absence of Phil Chevron from the line-up, due to health reasons, failed to cast a shadow over the show, and McGowan took his place on vocals for the Chevron penned, “Thousands Are Sailing” prior to which he paid tribute to the absent musician. Well, I think he did anyway.
The set list remained pretty constant from that performed in previous years, but the absence of “White City” disappointed this particular enthusiast, but then, you don’t always get what you want at Christmas do you? Safe to say that all the usual favourites were in place and the band were accompanied by the most disorderly choir Birmingham will see this Christmas.
Following the show, the usual enquiry as to the identity of Kirsty McColl’s’ replacement in “Fairy Tale of New York” took place between myself and my fellow fan, and as in previous years we couldn’t remember. But then that’s the point isn’t it?
So the first item is already on my list for Christmas 2008, another visit from Santa Shane to the old Top Rank.
The Pogues are one of the greatest bands on the gig circuit.
Which is the best live band you've ever seen?
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