It's not everyday that the coolest guy in the room is a guy in a wheelchair; on the other hand it's not everyday that the guy in the wheelchair is Shane Macgowan. Odd as it may be, that was exactly the situation this past St. Patrick's Day when The Pogues took the stage at New York's Roseland Ballroom.
The opening band, The Tossers had done a great set even though their banjo player didn't show up until halfway through. The crowd was ready to go. The Guinness was being poured incorrectly by bartender after bartender not used to serving the stuff (eventually they just allowed more seasoned Guinness drinkers such as myself to pour our own!). The lights went down. "Straight To Hell" by the Clash blared over the p.a. The band took the stage. And a minute later, the man himself, Mr. Macgowan, was wheeled out to center stage.
Apparently, a few nights earlier in Boston, Shane took a tumble&very uncharacteristic&and did some major damage to his knee. The next show, the first of three in NY, was cancelled but it was announced the next day that the remaining shows, along with one in Philly, would go on as planned&.well assuming they didn't plan on Shane being on his feet the whole show&.and really&.how could you?
There was a triumphant roar let out by the crowd when Macgowan, drink in hand was rolled out, and then the magic really started. "If I Should Fall From Grace With God" opened the show&or was it "Streams of Whiskey"? Even the band's website isn't sure&.it was that kind of night&I imagine for the Pogues it's been that kind of life. Point is, the band sounded amazing, and Shane, without the added pressure of needing to remain upright on his own volition was fucking brilliant. The BEST I've ever seen him. Sure once or twice he announced the next song and one band member or another had to correct him, but that just added to the charm. So did the double encore&which was clearly just a way to give Shane his fourth breather of the night. I'm telling you&.it was fucking great.
Musical highlights included the two songs above along with "Pair of Brown Eyes", "The Broad Majestic Shannon", "Rainy Night in Soho" and "The Auld Triangle". Emotional highlights included the opening I just relayed to you, and witnessing the Matriarch of the On Something family (my Mom, Ray's wife) enjoying her first trip to the Roseland, and raising her Shandi in a toast to the band. Truly a rock n roll moment that will stay with me regardless of what other memories the streams of Guinness take swirling down their frothy banks.
Happy St. Patrick's Day. Sláinte.
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