The Pogues @ Brixton Academy, London, UK

Live Reviews | Dec 23rd, 2005

Photo by Bryan Kremkau

Opening Bands: Seth Lakeman, The Dropkick Murphys
Date: December 20th 2005
Venue: Brixton Academy, London, UK

One reason to go to the London was to see the Levellers, then the other was to see the Pogues. My other all-time favorite band who I never saw live. Hey, both bands are my all-time favorites ok! I just had to see the Pogues live since they aren’t really a band anymore. They do rare reunion shows here and there (more frequently than usual now) so I immediately bought some tickets to see the band in the UK. I bought those before I even bought airline & hotel tickets.

A few weeks ago, the Pogues announced that they were touring briefly around St Paddy’s Day on the East Coast. I slapped my forehead because I just got tickets for the London trip; but it was already settled that I was making a vacation out of these two concerts. Which then turned into three concerts because my brother’s girlfriend wanted to see Stereophonics. Ugh…Here’s my concert review of that show: I feel asleep for half their set! No seriously, I did. But back to the Pogues playing in NYC in March; I got my tickets and seeing them again and I couldn’t be more happy! Seeing the Pogues twice in a few months apart is a VERY RARE thing.

I stupidly bought tickets for the balcony section by mistake, so I wanted to arrive at the venue really early to get a good spot. We arrived at the club a hour and half early and there were already a dozen or so people waiting on line. I was worrying the whole day and before the show because Pogues guitarist Philip Chevron but my name on the guest list for a photo pass. I’ve had in the past, some bad experiences with passes like not being a list at all but thankfully everything turned out okay in the long run. Once the doors were finally opened, I got every employee of the Brixton Academy yelling at me that I have my camera and I need to deposit it. Then they eventually told me to go to the side stage door for guest list and photo passes. Which was a fucking hassle because then I had to witness every person walking pass me getting a good spot inside, while I stayed outside worrying if I’m even on the damn list. Thankfully I told Matt & Michelle to save me a seat in the balcony because they got front row so I had a perfect view from the top.

But I got my photo pass, they tell me I can’t use my flash during the show and I only can take pictures for three songs. Ok, I knew that part but not the flash part. I’m still figuring out my camera and what settings to have it on so I was afraid I wasn’t going to get clear photos. I like the blurry pictures but not all of them ya know? But I walked inside the cool looking venue; I looked around for the doors and headed back to the front and bought some Pogues shirts. Headed up stairs, and found my brother & his girlfriend and I was happy at what seats they got.

Seth Lakeman, who I just literally saw a few days at the Levellers concert, came out & played a few songs just by himself. I saw him with his whole band so this was a slightly different experience. I don’t think the crowd was into him because they kept cheering for the Dropkick Murphys. The crowd seemed more like they wanted to see Dropkick Murphys than the Pogues which is a shame. But that might have just been the young kids because there were plenty of old folks there to just see the Pogues. I love both bands so I was happy to see them open for one of their influences. I went down to take three pictures of the band, and got reassure to use no flash for the photography; while every Joe Schmo with a cellphone is snapping pictures away with the flash. Yeah good policy. Yes that’s sarcasm!

But anyway, it was time for the Dropkick Murphys to perform. The lights went dark and Sinead O’ Connor’s version of the “Foggy Dew” blasted through the amps. The band took the stage and the crowd went ape shit. The Murphys played a lot of their newer stuff like “Spirit’s Alive,” “Warrior’s Code,” “Take It & Run” but played songs from other albums more Celtic influenced like “Fields of Athenry,” and “Wild Rover.” I must say, the music was really loud, to the point I was wishing I had earplugs. My ears are still ringing from the concert. But the audio got better as the set progressed. They played a lot of songs from “Sing Loud, Sing Proud” like “Good Rats (A song Shane sings on their album by the way),” “Forever” and “Spicy McHaggis Jig.” That’s when they called up a lot of girls to come on stage and dance around. You always have the usual psychos trying to hang all over the singer and other members of the bands. Then you have the other ones who try to get more attention by dancing in front of everyone on stage. I think if the audio wasn’t so damn loud, I would have enjoyed their set more. They did well and got the crowd into the show. Next was the band, everyone was here to see (I think anyway?) THE POGUES!

I wanted to get a good photo spot, so I went back downstairs and headed towards the pit. It took me a lot longer to get to the stage because Brixton Academy filled up tremendously. I eventually got there and went inside the photo pit. I was told I couldn’t take pictures for the first song, but for the next three. Ok, that’s cool but what about the photographers who waited to get a good spot? I must have been the only guy down there with a camera that didn’t have a 20 foot lens on it. They probably could have gotten x-ray photos of Shane’s teeth for all I know. I was happy with my camera and think I took some great photos of the Pogues. But I wouldn’t know what I have taken til after the show, more in that in a minute.

The Pogues came out to The Clash’s “Straight to Hell,” (which I’ve heard they usually come out to) and applause erupted as they hit the stage. Shane walked slowly on the stage, waved at everyone and I think he cursed at the crowd either saying “fuck off.” Not sure what he said though. I was right in front of the amps at the time so it was even harder to tell what he said in between songs. The stage had a big Pogues banner in the background, and two Christmas trees on both sides of the stage. “Streams of Whiskey” was the first song that the Pogues played and the crowd immediately started to dance in the very small space that they had to maneuver in. I was applauding and cheering, singing along in the photo pit, waiting to go in and snap away. I noticed some security guards singing along and I thought that was cool. Security guards over in the States can be so stiff and just sit there a lot of the times. But anyway, it was finally time to go in and take pictures so I did that as “If I Should Fall From Grace With God” started playing. One of the downsides of taking pictures is concentrating too much on getting good photos within three songs, and not watching or listening to the music. “Broad Majestic Shannon” was the third song, and it sounded beautifully. I really love that song, and i’m such a big fan of the next song as well: “Turkish Song of the Damned.” I love the version of Turkish that Joe Strummer sang on (from various bootlegs I found) but hearing Shane do it is awesome too! After that, the bouncers kicked out the photographers (except the video camera person, live/documentary DVD soon perhaps?) and we were escorted to the stage door area. I was trying to figure out what the fuck was happening because I was missing songs. I believe “Young Ned of the Hill” and “Rain Street” played while I had to deal with this annoying bullshit. I had to track down security, have them explain to me what I needed to do, deposit my camera with a club, get a ticket, and then head back into the club. I really hate strict clubs and their policies on photography.

I made my way up to the balcony after trudging along the rowdy crowd and got up their in time for “White City.” “White City” is another song I really love from the Pogues and it was funny seeing Shane do his standard dance for the song. Only this time it was more of a standard walk. It still put a smile on my face. Shane exited the stage and Spider then sang “Tuesday Morning” and the band really got into it. They got even more into for “Repeal of the Licensing Laws” which sounded PERFECT live. It was awesome seeing James jump off the drum partition onto the stage with his accordion, and just seeing everyone into the music that they were playing. Really makes for a fun live show. Other Pogues songs that stood out from the set were “Sunny Side of the Street,” “Old Main Drag,” “Lullaby of London” and “Thousands Are Sailing.” “Thousands Are Sailing” was sung by Phil Chevron, who did a fantastic job by the way! I’m happy he took over the singing duties for that song. I like how a lot of the members each have a song to sing.

During “Thousands Are Sailing,” Mr. Chevron had a list of Pogues forum users who traveled aboard to get there, including yours truly. As soon as my name was called out, I raise my hands in the air and everyone in the balcony was looking at me all weird. A guy behind me was like, “is that one of you?” I said “yeah, i’m Bryan from NY.” He then patted me on the back. After every song came on, the people behind me would start to get up and dance in their seats. I then had the gentlemen behind me the whole time “GET UP BRYAN FROM NY, THIS IS A FUN OCCASION, DANCE MAN, DANCE!” {something along those lines} I was cracking up laughing at this guy and thought it was really cool to get accepted in, so to speak, with the other Pogues fans. But as soon as I stood up and started to dance in my seat, the security guards would come over and tell everyone to sit down. They would yell at me first since I was in the front row. So I would sit back down and then get yelled at from the guy behind me to still stand up haha. Eventually security gave up trying to sit everyone and I finally stood up for the last song or two. I can’t stand dealing with security.

But back to the concert, the Pogues ended their set with three great songs “Dirty Old Town,” “Bottle of Smoke” and “Sick Bed of Cuchulainn.” “Dirty Old Town” was clearly a crowd favorite since you can hear the crowd singing over Shane during the entire song. For Sick Bed, Shane or someone in the band messed up and then they had to do another go at the beginning of the song. I was laughing at that but that happens to every band every once and awhile. Nothing wrong with that at all. I guess a Pogues show wouldn’t be complete with Shane messing up lyrics or verses ya know? The band went off stage and completed their set. Now it was time for the encores.

“Sally MacLennane,” “Rainy Night in SoHo,” and “Irish Rover” were played among that encore but I can’t remember what order they were played. A trumpet player came out for Soho and Spider & Shane seemed to be picking on him just a little bit but it was all in good fun. This song almost brings a tear to my eye every time I hear it, and the same goes for “Fairytale of NY.” Which was played in the second encore. The boys came back after those three songs and the drummer Andrew sang “Star of the County Down.” The most famous Pogues song was up next, with the help of Jem Finer’s lovely daughter Ella Finer singing with Shane MacGowan. FONY was amazing, and Ella did a fabulous job. Towards the end, Shane and Ella started to dance, or in their case spin around the stage. Snow machines from the ceiling shot out and sprayed the stage with snow, which was cool! I think most of the snow was hitting Andrew the drummer though. The final Pogues song of the evening ended perfectly with “Fiesta.” The party song got the whole balcony to it’s feet, and thankfully I didn’t get yelled at by security. I headed out towards the end of the song to get my camera and make the Tube to Earl’s Court before the crowd let out. This concert was the perfect ending to an almost perfect vacation. (not perfect because I got sick with bronchitis) Now I can’t wait to see the Pogues in NYC in March!


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