Christmas is filled with traditions, from roasted turkeys and overfeeding, to rubbish television and a collective of hideous jumpers being worn by the masses. A slightly alternative tradition to these, yet one that is just as, if not more important is The Pogues' annual set of festive gigs. For years now The Pogues have performed in major cities throughout the UK to sold out crowds in the weeks up to Christmas. The reason for specifically choosing these dates could be for many reasons, such as trying to create a sense of unity among the crowd as they approach the season of goodwill, to help people through the cold nights... or perhaps and this seems likely, because Fairytale Of New York has made Shane MacGowan (Lead Singer) and the rest of the band a ridiculous sum of money. For those somehow unfamiliar with the band, The Pogues are an Irish punk band who originally ran from 1982 through to 1996 before reforming to tour again in 2001 and have been doing so ever since. The band play traditional Irish instruments such as the mandolin, tin whistle and accordion to provide a traditional Celtic sound, which they add their own unique spin to in the form of politically charged lyrics, which illuminate MacGowan's origins as lead singer for punk band "The Nipple Erectors" before finding fame with The Pogues. Setlist (Rum, Sodomy and the Lash): A Pistol for Paddy Garcia The Sickbed of Cúchulainn The Old Main Drag Wild Cats of KilKenny I'm a Man You Don't Meet Every Day (with Camille O'Sullivan) A Pair of Brown Eyes Sally MacLennane Dirty Old Town Jesse James Navigator Billy's Bones The Gentlemen Soldier The Band Played Waltzing Matilda Encore 1: Streams of Whiskey Body of an American Thousands are Sailing Repeal of the Licensing Laws A Rainy Night in Soho The Irish Rover Encore 2: Boys From the County Hell Fairytale of New York (With Camille O'Sullivan) Fiesta It was to exuberant cries that The Pogues ran onto the stage of The O2 Academy in Glasgow, to face the 2,500 strong crowd packed into the small venue eager to see the Irish legends perform. Well I say ran out, most of the band did yes but it was notorious lead singer Shane MacGowan who decided to take things a touch slower. Managing to muster up enough energy to move at what can only be described as a shuffle, he made his way slowly towards the microphone, fag clutched in one hand and what is most probably a glass of gin firmly clasped in the other, some things never change. It has always been Shane's style to perform in this manner with many of The Pogues' older gigs (clips of which can be found on YouTube) ending with the singer in a state of complete intoxication. However, physically now it seems to have caught up with him, he slouches at the microphone waiting for the cries and chants from the crowd such as "There's only one Shane MacGowan!" to die down before addressing the crowd. Once they do he quickly mutters into the microphone about how he's happy to be here tonight, which even from a position at the barrier is difficult to make out due to the poor acoustics in the venue, and before anything else can be said the band launches into the first track from "Rum, Sodomy..." entitled "The Sickbed of Cúchulainn" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FZIISfOm3dI It is in his vocals that any worries of limitations caused by Shane's aging are quickly expelled, as although he may stay fairly stationary throughout nearly every song, apart from a waltz near the end of "Fairytale of New York" and a bizzare moment when he and "Spider Stacy" (Tin whistle and co vocalist) smack large metal plates against their faces during final song of the evening "Fiesta", his vocals are every part as powerful as they sounded when recorded 28 years ago on the original recording of the album. There are moments when Shane disappears off stage and Spider takes over the role of lead vocalist, along with one lead role take by cabaret singer Camille O'Sullivan who sings "I'm a Man You Don't Meet Every Day" and replaces the late Kirsty MacColl on "Fairytale of New York" fantastically. The gig moves at an electric pace with every member of the band giving a strong performance of what could well be considered their finest album to date and before long the set has come to an end much to the dismay of the crowd, eager for more. And thankfully The Pogues delivered on that front returning for two encores! With "Rum, Sodomy..." finished they could now spring some surprises upon the wild crowd who until this point knew exactly what would be coming at every turn. Songs such as "The Irish Rover" and "Streams of Whiskey" are met with joyous shouts and moshes all around as the crowd seemingly tries to imitate the levels of energy given off by the band members. This energy is surprisingly maintained by all band members (bar Shane as previously mentioned) who only pause to dedicate one song to ex guitarist Philip Chevron who died earlier this year, before congratulating his replacement on his abilities and diving right into the song "Thousands Are Sailing" (written by Chevron) before the mood can be hampered. The undeniable highlight of the gig comes in the form of "Fairytale of New York" a Christmas song for those who don't do Christmas songs. It is here that Camille O'Sullivan returns as she and Shane both give an impressive performance verbally attacking each other with gusto. It is during this song that the crowd stops charging around and all seemingly come together to sing, with many a hand raised to the ceiling as fake snow falls down onto them and Shane and Camille waltz on stage during the final section of the song. This show alone proved the Pogues' fantastic ability to this day as performers and maintains their reputation as a band that doesn't do anything (especially their drinks orders) by half measure. If you are offered the chance to see the band before they eventually disband then make sure you do, it won't be a decision you regret.
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