Riviera Theatre; Wed 5, Mar 6
In England and on the East Coast, punk fans immediately embraced the Pogues’ marriage of traditional Irish music and punk rock. After all, Pogues frontman Shane MacGowan had his bloodied visage famously photographed as the punk “Face of ’76,” was in the ’77 band the Nipple Erectors and can be seen pogo-ing like an epileptic in the opening of Don Lett’s 1978 The Punk Rock Movie.
However, in Chicago the band seemed to be seen more as modern folk masters than as visionaries who grasped the obvious similarities between traditional drinking music and modern pub punk. The Pogues were embraced by the NPR crowd and clean-cut collegians, and in a memorable late ’80s concert (on Bloomsday, the Irish holiday commemorating the day in James Joyce’s Ulysses) the audience was decidedly professorial. Virtually no Chicago punk veterans we know dug the Pogues, and while we are willing to chalk that up to tin-whistle aversions, we have always been disappointed that our generally intelligent scene couldn’t see the brilliance of this band.
Formed in 1982, the Pogues were soon supporting the Clash on tour, and thanks to MacGowan’s sublime songwriting, crafted a series of memorable ’80s LPs (the first three are genuine classics). Sadly, the band may best be remembered for MacGowan’s pronounced physical and oratorical disintegration due to alcohol and drug abuse (later concerts featured him slowly ambling around the stage and slurring consonant-free approximations of lyrics). Hopefully this full-band reunion tour (by our count the third since MacGowan’s 1990 dismissal) will be more a celebration of one of the best bands of the ’80s rather than a freak show starring the man who makes Keith Richards look like a church lady.