Having seen the band a handful of times in the last month, I’ve heard the track “Wisdom” as many times in it’s raw form. The tune — which comes from the band’s forthcoming record, Master of the Universe — is partly inspired by the long hours the band has logged crossing the country in support of their brilliant Happy the Man. There is currently no date set for the release of the record, though I’d expect it would be sometime in June. Stay tuned!
Check another one off of my bucket list – I have now seen the Pogues.
Last night’s show at the Marquee Theater in Tempe was their first stop in Arizona. Ever. And it was my first chance to catch a band I’ve long admired – a legendary British band masterfully playing Irish folk music since 1982. A band fronted for most of their years by the notoriously erratic and often [always?] inebriated Shane MacGowan.
This was the 7th show of a relatively short swing across the West and central U.S., and reports in from their Los Angeles show a few nights ago had me reconsidering the steep $60 ticket price. Shane wasn’t in great shape at the Nokia Theater – stumbling and fumbling around, falling down multiple times; at one point finishing a song lying on his back.
But Shane is like that box of chocolates – you never know what you’re gonna get. He has his good days and his bad days, and I wasn’t about to miss the chance to see these legends.
After a couple pints of Guinness at my old haunt, Casey Moore’s Oyster House (I lived around the corner for five years back in my single days) – it was off to the Marquee Theater across the Mill Avenue bridge.
It was a little after 10pm when the band sauntered on stage to the sounds of the Clash’s “Straight to Hell” on the PA. 10-15 seconds after his bandmates came out (just enough time for the crowd to think “Uh oh” to themselves), Shane MacGowan – drink and cigarette in hand – shuffled out to center stage in a seasoned drunkard’s stagger.
Then the opening notes of “Sally Maclennane” kicked in, and there was no looking back. My friend Todd and I spent the show front and center, just on the outer edge of the drunken mosh pit that would vary in intensity throughout the evening (but was never still). Even during songs like “Dirty Old Town” and “Rainy Night In Soho”, there were at least a few testosterone-laced brutes jostling around.
As the show progressed, a pattern began to take shape: a couple songs with Shane, and one without – while Shane took a breather side stage (I assume). But like clockwork, Shane would make his way back to center stage, grab the mic in his signature style, and sing the great songs of the Pogues. Unlike his earlier shows in San Diego and L.A., he stood the entire time. It seems funny to be thankful that an artist you paid $60 to see was able to simply stand for a whole show. But this is Shane MacGowan we’re talking about. I’d be interested to know if Shane has ever been sober for a performance.
Clearly it was one of Shane’s “good” nights. Maybe it was the Arizona sunshine at the Biltmore luxury resort, where the Pogues stayed; or maybe it was the U2 concert in Glendale the night before, where Shane was in attendance, and prompted a shout out from Bono himself (and a segue into “Dirty Old Town”). Maybe the U2 show inspired Shane to pull it together for his fans.
Whatever forces of nature were in place, it resulted in over 90 minutes of unbridled Irish-inspired joy and revelry. The crowd – old and young alike – swayed, danced, and most notably, smiled. This was one of those live music experiences where time stood still. Before I knew it, the final song,”Fiesta”, was playing, Spider Stacy was smashing a pizza pan against his forehead, and Shane was leading the crowd in a singalong:
“Come all you rambling boys of pleasure / And ladies of easy leisure / We must say Adios! until we see Almeria once again”.
And then it was over.
I may never see the Pogues again. God willing, Shane MacGowan will continue to defy all odds behind his self destructive behavior, and he will continue to front this amazing band. But I thank the Music Gods I had an opportunity to experience the spirited majesty of a Pogues show.
On Youtube: 1123Mozart captured this great quality video of “Rainy Night in Soho”..
Set List – Marquee Theatre – Tempe, Arizona – 10/21/2009
Streams of Whiskey
If I Should Fall From Grace With God
The Broad Majestic Shannon
Young Ned Of The Hill
A Pair of Brown Eyes
Sunnyside of the Street
Repeal of the Licensing Laws
Body of an American
Old Main Drag
Thousands are Sailing
Dirty Old Town
Bottle of Smoke
The Sick Bed of Cuchulain
Star of the County Down
Rainy Night in Soho
I narrowed this week’s pick down to two Irish bands. I figured Bono and the boys have succeeded in completely saturating the U.S. media, and it was a good opportunity to shine the spotlight on another quality band from the Emerald Isle: Bell X1.
Before I get started, look down a little further in the post for the embedded media player. Bell X1 has done it right, offering a full embeddable stream of their entire album. So go on down, click play, and come on back.
Bell X1 are a Dublin-based group who started off in the early 90’s as a band called Juniper, which also featured Damien Rice. The “Bell X1” was inspired by the first plane to break the sound barrier (flown by Chuck Yeager way back in 1947).
Blue Lights on the Runway is the band’s 4th studio album since their debut in 2000. I’d picked up their 2005 release Flock due to a couple of great tunes I heard on Sirius: “Rocky Took a Lover” and “Flame”. So when I noticed Blue Lights, their debut on Yep Roc, I had to take a listen.
Glad I did! This album has some great moments…
“The Ribs of a Broken Umbrella” kicks off the album in rocking, synthy, electro-pop style.
“How Your Heart Is Wired” has an electronic-based rhythm that brings to mind Kid A-era Radiohead.
“The Great Defector” will have David Byrne fans double checking their iPod. Vocalist Paul Noonan sounds just like Byrne on this one, particularly when the chorus takes flight with the background vocals.
But it’s the album’s slower moments that really do it for me. “Blow Ins” is one of the best down tempo tunes I’ve heard all year. It takes a look at a subject that fascinates all of us: our mortality: “I am the magpie when all’s shiny and new / I can’t help myself, I pick a pocket or two / And if all time was but a day / We’d show up around midnight and say ‘Hey’… We’re just blow ins / On the storm of time / Yeah, we’re just stopping / For a while”. Noonan’s vocals shine on this one – really a gorgeous tune.
“Light Catches Your Face” and “The Curtains are Twitchin'” are two other quality slower numbers . “Curtains”, the album closer, starts off as a minimalist dirge-like ballad – piano, electric guitar and vocals – and ends up sounding like the Dirty Dozen Brass Band broke into the studio – a cavalcade of dixieland brass bursting through the final moments of a great album.
90% of my ancestry points to Germany, but somewhere along the line, there must have been an Irishman in the mix. Or maybe from a past life. Whatever it is, I am drawn to the Emerald Isle’s offerings – especially where beer and music is concerned. Give me some Waterboys, some Chieftains, some Pogues, and a few pints of Guinness, and I’m a happy man.
Young Dubliners have been putting forth their brand of Celtic rock and roll for over 20 years now, and their new album ‘Saints and Sinners‘ happily fills my appetite for great Irish-branded rock & roll. Co-founder Keith Roberts has been leading the Young Dubs since he moved over to the states and formed the Young Dubs in 1988. They made their mark at the Irish Rover pub in Santa Monica, California. If you were listening to AAA radio back in the early 90’s, you may remember their most popular tune, “Last House on the Street” (a great song that I canNOT seem to find anywhere online, anyone?).
But that was then, and this is now. ‘Saints & Sinners’ isn’t just a collection of predictable Celtic sounds. It’s an eclectic mix of well written tunes.. It’s got great pop hooks (“Buy You a Life”), heart-wrenching ballads (“(I Don’t Think I’ll) Love Anymore”), an instrumental rocker featuring Kenny Wayne Shepherd on blistering guitar (“Saoirse”), and some straight-ahead get off your ass and party anthems on the the first trio of tunes on the album (“Saints and Sinners”, “Howaya Girls”, and “Rosie”). “My Town” surprised me too in its positive outlook on these tough economic times. The lyrics about never giving up and getting back up when you’re down sound a little cliche and corny at face value, but Keith and his band make it work. I’m drawn to those songwriters who write about those who experience despair and tough times in life, but keep a hopeful and positive spirit, and know there’s a better day coming (read: Bruce Springsteen). That’s who I am, after all.
Young Dubliners are road dogs, spending about 200 days on the road a year. Reports are that they’re a great live band to see. Hearing some of the songs on ‘Saints and Sinners‘ has me pumped to hear ’em live. If you’re here with me in Arizona, you can catch them April 25th at the McDowell Mountain Music Festival. They have the 1:30pm slot, which is way too early for these guys in my opinion, but I’ll take it.
The Young Dubs are streaming the first six tracks of ‘Saints and Sinners’ over on their MySpace page.
If you celebrate Christmas like me, and you haven’t even started to think about buying your first gift, worry not. You are not alone! Year after year, I let the pre-Christmas stress build like a killer Nor’easter. Not quite sure why I torture myself every year. I guess I know no other way.
But as stressful as this season can be, there’s always the music to take the edge off a little. Topping the list for me, year after year, is the Pogues classic “Fairytale of New York”. Nothing tells me it’s Christmas time like the beautiful, poetic snarl of Shane MacGowan and the sweet voice of the late Kirsty MacColl. It’s Christmas in the drunk tank, bee-otch.
This Thanksgiving, my family and I received an unwanted guest, in the form of a stomach virus. Evil shit, I tell you. If someone can tell me how it’s anatomically possible to puke motor oil, I’d like to know!
But worry not: inspired, witty, highly entertaining posts will return from my neck of the woods soon. But for now, Blech!
A look back at more of the music that makes me tick. This is my favorite Waterboys song. From their great 1988 album, Fisherman’s Blues, it’s a bittersweet, nostalgic look back at the singer’s past loves. He sends them all his love, and a bang on the ear. No, not a wack upside the melon, but simply a kiss (according to Wikipedia)…
“And a Bang on the Ear”, in which Scott summarizes a past romantic attachment in each verse, finishing the song with a current “woman of the hearthfire”, was released as the second single from the album… Confusion amongst listeners about what a bang on the ear might be among prompted The Waterboys’ Frequently Asked Questions page to note, more than ten years later, that it was “a term of affection”. A ‘bang’ means a kiss…
In 1990, this song became Ireland’s biggest selling single of all time. In 2007, it finally reached my ears thanks to Larry Kirwan’s Celtic Crush show on Sirius. Apparently, the Roman Catholic church raised a stink at the time because of some suggestive lyrics mentioning the church…
Well, I used to see her up the Chapel when she went to Sunday mass,
When she’d go up to receive, I’d kneel down there and watch her pass.
The glory of her ass!
And I walked straight up and made an ostentatious contribution
And I winked at her to tell her I’d seduce her in the future,
When she’s feeling looser.
The Saw Doctors, from Tuam, County Galway, have been going strong since the mid 80’s, when the Waterboys discovered them in a Galway pub, and invited them to open for them on their next Irish and UK (Fisherman’s Blues) tour. The band is spending this St. Patty’s Paddy’s Day playing the Vic in Chicago.