When Irish Eyes Are Smiling

The Pogues, with Against Me
House of Blues, Las Vegas, NV
Sunday, October 15, 2006

The House of Blues is one of my all time favorite concert venues. When I lived in Vegas, it was hands down the best place to catch a show. Its big enough to attract good touring bands, but still feels intimate. The sounds is always great, and the sightlines are fantastic. That said, they totally dropped the ball for this show. How do you book
The Pogues, one of the most popular Irish bands ever, and run out of Guinness before the headliners even take the stage?

When the house lights dimmed, the opening strains of The Clash's "Straight To Hell" came flowing from the speakers, and you couldn't have asked for better intro music. After a couple of minutes, the band walked out and opened with "Streams Of Whiskey." Twenty minutes into the show, after a 1,800 person strong sing along on "Boys From County Hell," I felt like the concert could have ended right then and I'd still have got my money's worth. The fact that there was another hour and half of music after that was a bonus. I'm not sure I've ever smiled though an entire show the way I did Sunday night. After two encores, they closed with a rousing version of "Fiesta" that featured Shane MacGowan and Spider Stacy banging cookie tin lids against their heads in time with the song. It was truly an amazing show, and well worth flying half way across the country to see.

The second question anyone asks when you're talking about a Pogues show is "How was Shane?" The answer Sunday night was "fantastic." His vocals were impeccable (relatively speaking, of course), and he didn't miss a beat throughout the show. I got the impression that he was pulling Dean Martin's old routine of acting more drunk than he really was to live up to the crowd's expectations. Although Dean used to drink apple juice on stage in place of scotch, and I'm pretty sure those were real gin and tonics Shane kept walking onstage with.

The Pogues - "Lorelei" (mp3)

This is hands down my favorite Pogues song, from their 1989 album
Peace And Love . The female singer who duets with Philip Chevron on this track is Kristy MacColl, who also sang on my second favorite Pogues song, "Fairytale Of New York" (the version of it Sunday night almost brought me to tears). All five of the albums recorded while Shane MacGowan was in the band were reissued last month by Rhino, and all include the bonus tracks that were previously only available on the import versions.

Against Me opened the show with an ultra tight set of politically charged punk. I'm not usually a fan of political music, but these guys were so good they overcame my prejudices. I remember thinking that you've got to be pretty confident as a headliner to have an act this good playing before you go on. They've got several mp3s on their website, but this one seemed most appropriate to post under the circumstances.

Against Me - "Pints Of Guiness Make You Strong" (mp3)

Photo courtesy of

post title by Bing Crosby


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