Interview: Staying Alive
Bad Boss: The Ultimate Piss Off
Industrial: Last Drinks
National Focus: Around the States
Politics: Radical Surgery
Education: The Price of Missing Out
Legal: If At First You Don't Succeed
History: Massive Attack
Culture: What's Right
Review: If He Should Fall
Poetry: If I Were a Rich Man
Satire: IMF Ensures Iraq Institutes Market Based Looting
The Locker Room
Bob Gould Sprays Gerard Henderson
War and Peace
A Strange Light
A Little History
Does It Have To Be?
If He Should Fall
For more than a quarter century Shane MacGowan has been the skinny, gap-toothed, iconic face of Irish punk, casting an extended middle finger at the world and its conventions. But this world is wont to find a way of slapping down its rebels and physically, at least, it has given MacGowan a bigger touch up than most.
Those of us long intoxicated by his lean, irreverence were taken aback as a bloated, middle-aged man hobbled into our midst with the aid of a walking stick. Slowly, and apparently painfully, he edged himself onto a high stool in the middle of the stage where the tools of his trade - the microphone, the schooner and the packet of fags - awaited.
Backed by the tight, driving support of the Popes, he kicked off with his classic If I Should Fall From Grace with God and, truth was, it wasn't too bad at all. Good enough to get the punters roaring, that's for sure.
Short of breath he sensibly flicked the pages of his songbook that required most vocal dexterity - Fairytale of New York, Rainy Night in Soho and the like - for a high octane set of footstomping, singalong classics such as Dirty Old Town, Paddy Public Enemy Number One, Donegal Express, Streams of Whisky, The Sick Bed of Cuchulainn, Greenland Whale Fishery, The Irish Rover and South Australia where, on the few occasions it was required, back-up men could guide him over the humps.
Sadly, it cost us a string of quality Popes numbers, including Victoria, St John of Gods and the deeply-revealing Church of the Holy Spook, that match anything from his Pogues era.
Severely limited of movement, perched in centre stage he could still react to encouragement and there was no shorgage of that. A genuine relationship unfolded, MacGowan getting bolder and stronger with every roar of approval and the appreciative, pogoing mass screaming louder for each gut-busting effort he was prepared to make.
Suddenly, without warning, the man got up and hobbled away, stage right. The Popes thundered on for three ... four ... five ... maybe six tension filled minutes until MacGowan returned, mounted the stool and picked up where he'd left off.
No conversation. No explanation. No need.
Finally, when the man was done and wet with sweat, the crowd screamed and stamped their demand for an encore, exploding with enthusiasm when the band returned and MacGowan shuffled back into the spotlight.
He did one number then stood tall, centre stage. The years fell away to reveal the real Shane MacGowan, leaning on the bar of some country pub, perving with intent at the charms of sweet Sally MacLennane.
Half of you hoped to hell he'd do another. The other half prayed to Christ he wouldn't be stupid enough to try.
For one reason or another, MacGowan has had his obituary penned more often this past 25 years than any 10 men but, if spirit has anything to do with it, he will be around for a while yet.
Yes, things have changed. The sharp-witted, coarse-tongued genius has dealt with his reality by becoming a workman, craftsman yes but a workman nevertheless, to show the world he's not beat yet.
MacGowan's taken us on an emotional roller coaster, from dark trepidation to triumph. And he's done it in barely 65 minutes, underlining the fact that quality beats quantity, any night of the week.
Anyone who missed that point must have been, in the words of the poet - a miserable bollocks and a bitch's bastard's whore.
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