Opening Bands: William Elliott Whitmore, The Slackers
Date: March 18th 2006
Venue: Nokia Theatre, NYC
Having The Pogues tour the USA is a rare thing; it’s even rarer when I get the chance to see the band twice within a few months from each other. This was the first time in over 15 years that the Pogues have played in America. And let me be the first to say WELCOME BACK! I saw the band for the first time in London in December and was completely blown away by their performance. I immediately bought tickets for one of the NYC shows because I knew it would sell out quick. Good thing I did because tickets were going for at least 150 bucks on eBay. I wish I could have gone to all 4 NYC shows but I don’t live in Manhattan so it would have been very pricey to go to more than one show. Considering one show was double the amount I’m used to paying for a concert. So I decided to go to the Saturday show since traffic isn’t that bad on Saturdays.
My brother, who I usually go to shows with, was taking a vacation so he couldn’t go. This was the first time I actually drove into the city and I was a nervous wreck. I decided to go early before any traffic and I guess it was a smart decision. My two buddies (who haven’t seen the Pogues live yet) and I got there around 430ish and got some overpriced pizza in Times Square. Figures the day I have to wait outside for a long period of time is the day it was really cold out. There were a few people ahead of us but that was okay because I was going to be an old fart and get the seats in the back of the club. I didn’t feel like being in the crowd with my camera for a Pogues show. Didn’t feel like taking that risk. While on line, I talked with some fans that traveled from California and just talked to various people about the band, and of course how fucking cold it was. It was good talking with people because it kept my mind off the weather. I got the line laughing because I told them about the guy who chopped off his dick and threw it at the police. While waiting to get in, I thought I saw Dave Chappelle walking in Times Square but it could have been someone who looked liked him.
We finally got inside and got seats in the front row. Then ADD was kicking in and we all had to walk around and do stuff til the opening act came on. I bought a pricey Pogues track jacket (worth It though!) and just chilled in my seat listening to DJ Scratchy. He’s my kind of DJ because he plays a bunch of random stuff. One minute is Gogol Bordello and the next is Hank Williams. The opening guy was named William Elliott Whitmore and he plays a folky bluegrass and uses his foot for a beat. Really interesting and think a great choice to open for the Pogues. He only played 3 or 4 songs and didn’t play long enough in my opinion. He had a really great voice and I’m curious to hear what he sounds like on CD. While waiting for the next band, my friends & I spotted Hurley from Lost in the crowd. At least I think it was him. Later on I saw James McCaffrey from Rescue Me looking right at me & at the stadium seats. I looked back and realized who it was and then I saw him take off. After the show, I found out a few bigger name actors were there like Joaquin Phoenix, Cillian Murphy and Steve Buscemi. The Pogues certainly got the celebs to come out with the normies this weekend.
Up next was the NYC ska band, the Slackers. Out of all the years of going to shows, I’ve only seen the Slackers once before and that was way back in 1997. I like listening to their stuff on CD more than seeing them live. Not sure why. I took pictures of the band for the first three songs, and then met up with some other photographers & people I talk with over at Pogues.com message board. I ended up standing on the side and talking with them the entire time and not realizing the Slackers were even on. The music was just playing in the background. I couldn’t even tell you what songs they played because I didn’t recognize any. I’m assuming they played a few off their new album “Peculiar.” From what I can remember, they did play okay and played for a half hour or so. Next up were the Pogues; a little late than they were suppose to be. They were supposed to come on around 9:15 and didn’t take the stage til 9:45ish. I guess it could be worse, the band not show up at all haha.
The crowd was entertained by the mix selection of DJ Scratchy while they sit & wait. Finally The Clash’s “Straight to Hell” came on and the Pogues took the stage. Shane MacGowan slowly followed the band and was sporting a scally cap that night. He seemed to look different each show (judging from the photos I saw). The band opened with “Streams of Whiskey” as I watched from the side. I was waiting to go in the photo pit and snap away a thousand photos. As soon as “If I Should Fall From The Grace With God” came on, I jumped into the photo pit and started snapping away. “Broad Majestic Shannon” and “Turkish Song of the Damned” were played after that and sounded great! They played a lot of the same songs as they did in London, with an exception of two songs. They played that night “A Pair of Brown Eyes” and “Boys From the County Hell” and the crowd went nuts for both. For some reason, they didn’t end up playing those in London (at least I don’t think they did??) Who knows, I was too busy trying to figure out my camera situation back in London to figure out what songs they were playing. Shane sounded excellent that night and seemed to be really enjoying himself. He was saying some funny things in between songs (or what I can make out). The thing that he had me bent over laughing about was him stepping up to the microphone and saying “SHUT UP!!!” to the crowd. The audience loved him for that and cheered him back. He also throughout the night was balancing bottles on his head. Until the very end of the set when the bottle fell from his head and Shane got a kick out of that. I also liked when he tangled up the mic wire around the mic stand and was then flipping the stand back and forth across the stage. It’s the little things like that, that Pogues fans appreciate from Shane. Besides the funny antics on stage, the band sounded great and blew through the songs. I was sad when it was all over because I was enjoying myself so much.
Just like in London, band members alternated back and forth with singing certain songs. Spider sang “Tuesday Morning” and I really dug it but not sure the crowd was into as much as I was. To my point of view, the NYC crowd was a lot tamer than the London crowd. The London crowd was more into the show, singing & dancing a lot more. Plus they seemed to be more drunker than the NYC crowd but I did see a few people fall down the stairs and fall into guard rails at Nokia. But just like the London show, both crowds REALLY love the Pogues doing “Dirty Old Town.” Clearly a crowd favorite all over the world. Phil Chevron sang “Thousands Are Sailing” and did an amazing job with it. On the album, Shane sings it but I really think the song sounds better with Philip singing. Other songs that stood out that night were “Sunny Side of the Street,” “Lullaby of London,” “Repeal of the Licensing Laws” and “White City.” The band finished the set with “Bottle of Smoke” and “Sick Bed of Cuchulain.” The band really seemed to get into “Sick Bed” and I loved seeing Spider & James jump off the drums platform. The band went off the stage and it was time for the first encore.
They came back and played one of my favorites “Sally Maclennane.” Such a fun song to sing along to! “Rainy Night in Soho” & “Irish Rover” were after that. Of course I loved hearing “Rainy Night in Soho” and think it’s one of the best songs Shane has ever written. In London, the punk band Jesse James’ horn section played with the Pogues for that song but this time it was just the Pogues, no horn section. It still sounded great though! After that encore, everyone started to get up and leave and I was telling people to stay because they are coming back. Come on, a Pogues show with Shane and they don’t sing “Fairytale of New York”? Please, of course they are going to do that. It’s their most popular song they ever did. The band came back on for the second encore and it was Andrew the drummer’s turn to sing and he did “Star of the County Down.” The bassist Daryl took over for the drums on that and I thought that was cool. I love seeing band members switch up instruments because it shows they are talented in other areas as well. Spider introduced Ella Finer (Banjo player Jem’s daughter) to the stage, and said “we’ve known this person ever since she was an egg.” That got applause & laughter with the crowd and she came out, looking really beautifully and ready to sing the famous duet with Shane. As soon as James started playing the keyboards, I was starting to get choked up from the song. I didn’t get that way in London but maybe thinking this might be the last time seeing the band, it was a bit upsetting for me. I’m a pussy I know, but anyway….Ella Finer did a fantastic job again and should make Daddy proud. I can’t find anyone more fitting (besides the late Kirsty MacColl) to sing that song than Ella. It’s funny seeing Shane dance with her because it’s basically just spinning round and round. At the end, the snow came falling down from the ceiling. The snow came down gently and not pouring out of the machine like it did in London. Looked more realistic. The last song they played was “Fiesta” and that certainly got the place jumping & dancing. Spider was smashing his head with the beer tray (like usual), The band was all over the stage and Shane was having a blast. “A Blast,” that’s how I describe a Pogues show. Some of the best shows i’ve ever been to and can’t thank the band enough for FINALLY touring over here after all these years. I just hope this isn’t the last time we’ll hear or see the band because I think there’s still tons of beautiful music to be made. We shall see, we shall see.