The Fillmore was packed several weeks ago, packed with anticipation and drink, the men and women who crowded near the stage looking ready to Mosh. The previous act had been a fast and furious punk, the leader singer had apparently wacked himself with the mike stand leaving a bloody gash on his forhead. The loudest chears though came whenever he said the Pogues are next. They left the stage to the roadies who wandered about the stage, aimlessly at times, gesturing at each other as if a guitar had been lost.
Chants of "pogues, pogues...", "shane, shane...", broke out sporadically, over the reggae music that was the odd choice of music between the acts. The gentleman next to us doublefisting some beers, speculated whether or not Shane McGowan, touring with the band for the first time in 17 years would actually make it, "if he doesn't I'm going to get up on stage and demand half our money back." "Of course," he added. "If I did that I'd probably get kicked out and missed the show."
The theater finally went dark, and the Clash's "Straight to Hell" started playing, bringing a roar from the crowd. The crowd and I happily sang along, but I kept thinking -- what an odd choice of song... a clash song about kids of american soldiers in vietnam? The crowd went nuts though when the Shane stepp--well lets say shambled-- out on to stage along with the rest of the Pogues. They launched into music and the crowd exploded into the air, into each other, and into joyous raucaus song. Liz and I faded backward a bit as the mosh pit gathered steam.
It took me a while to get back into it though. The band seemed to be casting their erstwhile leader glances to make sure he was still on stage and not yet fallen off. Shane for his part mumbled in between songs, barely intelligible. Someone placed a lit cigarette in his hands for him. Besides being awfully drunk, he seemed a little bored to be there. During one song's instrument solos, he stood playing with the mic, pushing it out further and further and letting it fall back towards him.
So I stood there letting the crowd and song wash around me and mused on the particular hell that these men must be in. The pogues would have never sold out this hall, nor been able to charge the price they did, nor had such a racuous audience without Shane, but what would Shane be without them, and here they all are playing music that was written 17 or more years ago (with a couple of exceptions of songs merely a decade old), and here they were with several hundred incredibly happy singing fans.
Eventually, the singing fans, and the songs themselves won me over with their sheer exuberance. It was Dirty Old Town that put me over the top, I hadn't expected that it would be anyone's favorite but me own, but clearly this was a song that a lot of people responded to!
They packed up for at the end, and filed off and the crowd began to chant for their return, with "Shane, Shane"s and "Pogues, Pogues", but finally settling into a back of the neck hair raising "Ole Ole Ole Ole" that finally brought the band back. People danced, sang, and whirled on and off, and the only thing you had to watch our for was turning your back on the mosh pit.