Venue: Olympia Theatre, Dublin, January, 1995

MBT - 1 (4)

THEY CAME, AS IT WERE, FOR THE RESURRECTION AND RESURRECTION – indeed, rampant resurgence – was what they got. Twelve hundred unrepentant pilgrims gathered; grown men were seen to weep in the aisles and then leap onstage, the better to prostrate themselves before the object of their adulation. And then the earth, in the form of 35 seat from the front four rows, was seen to move.

Shane MacGowan returns to Dublin three years since the split with The Pogues and he returns, if the stories are to be believed, from the dead. A month ago, the Irish Advertising Standards Authority had upheld a complaint claiming the billboard campaign of a ‘crucified’ MacGowan, for The Church of the Holy Spook e.p., was blasphemous. But tonight the faithful have assembled and the smoke filled, whiskey and porter stenched air in the cathedral high galleries of this Victorian music hall, scene of many shambolic past triumphs, is redolent with anticipation.

Backstage, in a dressing room tucked away among the labrynthine corridors, noise, smoke and raised voices guide you to a room, modestly tagged, ‘The Popes’. Gathered within are tonight’s celebrants and evidence of the reverentially demolished rider is everywhere. In a corner sits Shane (Il Pappa di tutti Pappas, so to speak), anxiously juggling  a jumble of items, to whit: wine, one bottle of; one fag; one set-list; and one pen, felt.

12.45am:, by now the house has begun to reverberate with an animal roar of “SHANE, SHANE, SHANE.”The pit is a seething mass of fans, swaying, swigging and baying: florid of face and, undoubtedly, ‘fluthered’, to a man, woman, unwashed street urchin and, for all one can tell amid the throng, at least one stray sheep.MBT - 1 (7)

The show progresses at an amphetamine pace, opening with Streams of Whiskey and thundering through Greenland Whale Fishery and road burning versions of Donegal Express, Church of the Holy Spook and Nancy Whiskey. Centre stage, MacGowan looks very much in control (as much as he can after a lifetime of prodigious hedonism) and as if he’s having fun. ‘Hello, Dublin, it’s good to be back,’ he growls, before breaking in to his familiar Muttley snigger, ‘Ksshsshssh…’

The stage invasions begin with the opening bars of The Snake with the Eyes of Garnet, as fans begin to trampoline from the front rows, over the orchestra pit, over the heads of the bouncers and land at the feet of their hero, this unlikely object of desire. MacGowan continues to sing, unperturbed, as he ducks and dives around the most fervent of his followers. The view from the ornamental theatre box, suspended just above and to the right of the stage, is one of joyous pandemonium. Shane’s girlfriend, Victoria Clarke, sits beside me, nursing a bottle of champagne and decides to shed her knickers and cast them, stage-wards. They float down amid the chaos, a wisp of scanty lace.

In the cockpit below, things are on the borderline of anarchy. More bouncers appear to repel boarders. Occasionally, a gap appears amid the sway to reveal already splintered rows of seating.Everyone’s smiling through two hours, an anarchic reworking of Neil Diamond’s Crackin’ Rosie and two encores of MacGowan penned Pogues’ favourites. His sister, Siobhan, joins him for a version of Fairytale of New York, that is all but drowned by the singing throng.

In the aftermath, a handful of cheery stragglers reel about among the matchwood splinters of the four demolished front rows. Back in the dressing room the air of nervous tension has been replaced by hard-earned euphoria. Arrangements are made for the after show celebrations which should, no doubt, see us into Dublin’s ‘early houses’ by 7am. Victoria and friends decide they’re hungry and head off for a plate of egg ‘n’ chips round at Mr Pussy’s Cafe Deluxe.MBT - 1 (5)

At the door, the maitresse d’ is in a quandary. Fearing a diplomatic incident, she/he whispers how the table adjoining our preferred location, on a secluded balcony, has been booked by a certain party, hereafter referred to as Van Morrison. Spotting the obvious possibilities of such a rock’n’roll encounter, we capture the table. But Van will have none of it; he makes his excuses and leaves, only to turn up, later, at the band’s hotel.

In the residents’ bar of Jury’s Hotel, MacGowan and assorted Popes are ranged about, dazed but delighted, celebratory drinks in hand. Subdued, but satisfied, Shane asks, rhetorically, “What did you think, then?” Then adds, “It’s Dublin, innit? Ksshsshssh”



33 thoughts on “Shane MacGowan and The Popes

  1. Ah if only my plans had have worked out. I would have liked to have travelled the world writing and taking photos. Jan ’95 I was expecting my third child, having a break in my concert going 🙂

  2. Really liked this Dermott. Love the line, “progresses at an amphetamine pace,” and also grew up on Van Morrison so I appreciated the reference there. Enjoying your writing so I went ahead and got Tito’s Dead on Amazon tonight. As I’m 1/3 of the way through Infinite Jest right now it may be 6 months or so before I let you know what I think of the novel but it’s definitely next on my list. Take care…

      • You’re very welcome. That sounds like a great job. I can tell by the way you write – very visual and full of energy. Did you write as a freelancer, or for a magazine/paper? Indeed I did! :0)

      • Wow Mail on Sunday!
        I always think it must be very frustrating being a reporter. You write a brilliant piece and then they come back and say ‘we’ve cut it to two paragraphs due to available space’ – unless you have your own column. Then it’s ‘can you do a rewrite by tomorrow’? Did you have that experience? (I don’t mean specifically at the Mail on Sunday)

      • As a freelance I learned to tailor what I wrote to their needs. All of the story was in the first three paragraphs, the fluff followed. When I became a social diarist, I had a one or two page column with a lead and maybe six other stories. In the Evening Herald, I did it every night, five nights a week. I’d start work at 6pm and finish about 4am, after the last club closed. Then I’d go home, write and file it and go to sleep. One of the subs always said it was a dream to sub because I never left them anything to cut. MoS was a different story. They’d write a headline, before you got the story. I got sick of it.

      • Flipping heck that’s a long day!! How did you survive it? Especially when listening to loud gigs or club music – do your ears still ring? :0) Must be really annoying when they give you a headline – it’s like they’ve told you what to write, now get on with it!

  3. Oh that was exactly what it was like. Y’see as the editor responsible for all Showbusiness stories, as well as a 2 page diary, I had to outline at least half a dozen target stories at the beginning of the week. Of course, as the week progressed, some of those stories would come to nought, others would be assigned to news pages and then other stories might turn up. So, while I spent the week trying to verify, substantiate and/or confirm those stories, the editor would pick out stories he wanted, write the headlines – thereby assigning a slant to the story – and would change the story, once confirmed, to suit their headline. It was a constant row that I attribute to the decline in my health, but could never prove. Ironically, the two people that followed me lasted less than six months, both of them sued for bullying and got six figure sum settlements. I became a waiter.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s