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  The Tabernacle  
  Downtown Atlanta, GA  
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A 21 year old poster hangs over my couch. It's hung in my various residences for all of that time, in memory of my first real "favorite" band, whom I discovered in the mid 1980s. They are The Pogues, and the poster was for the single release of Fairytale of New York. They were never really all that huge down here in Atlanta. I remember back in high school, when people asked me what I was listening to, people would hear the answer and go, "The Whats?" I would try to explain and inevitably fail, although I remained secure in my belief that The Pogues were an amazing band who would triumph if they weren't so obscure here in the U.S.

I last saw The Pogues in 1989, when they played the Center Stage in Atlanta. It was a raucous show where the obvious inebriation of the band didn't effect their music, which was as beautiful as always. But back then, they were band always on the verge of imploding, so it was no surprise when they eventually broke up (or rather, when they first kicked lead singer/main songwriter Shane MacGowan out). I pretty much packed away then the memories of that glorious band and got on with my life, with only that one poster standing as a silent tribute.

Then, late in 2008, I heard The Pogues would play Atlanta one more time. This time they would play The Tabernacle, a much larger venue than their last one. Since it was their only show in the American South, I also wasn't too surprised when the show sold out, as The Pogues seem to have only increased in popularity in the last 20 years or so. But, honestly, as we prepared to go into The Tabernacle, I can't say I had particularly high hopes for the show. MacGowan's erraticness is somewhat legendary and, unlike a lot folks, I had seen them back in their heyday and had seen what they were once capable of. But, you know what? This was The Pogues. There was no way I wasn't going to be there.

When we got into the venue, the first thing I noticed was that, even though it was early March, the venue was extremely steamy. I also noticed that the floor was totally packed with tall people in varying states of inebriation (ranging from mildly buzzed to out and out drunk). These two factors didn't suggest that this would be a successful concert outing. But we stuffed ourselves into a vaguely open space towards the back of the floor, and turned expectantly towards the stage. And then we waited. And waited. And waited a bit more, as still more people stuffed themselves in and/or got more intoxicated.

But at long last, the lights dimmed and The Pogues came out and began with a blistering version of the Streams of Whiskey, which is a bit of signature song for them. The sound was very muddy, and you could hardly hear the vocals over the crowd, but I have to state outright that the musical performance seemed very good. MacGowan was in relatively fine voice and seemed fairly interactive with the band and the crowd. Likewise, the rest of the band hit their musical cues right on. It was enough to send slight chills up my spine. From there, the group hustled through any number of their greatest hits, as you might have heard on The Very Best of The Pogues: If I Should Fall From Grace With God, Broad Majestic Shannon, Turkish Song of The Damned, Greenland Whale Fisheries, A Pair of Brown Eyes, and Sayonara as well as the MacGowan-less Tuesday Morning and Thousands are Sailing (sung by Spider Stacy and guitarist Philip Chevron, respectively). With the exception of Tuesday Morning, the folks around me seemed to know almost all of the lyrics and were bouncing and singing along.

For me the highlights included a slow, mournful version of Kitty, my favorite song off Red Roses for Me, which Im not sure I'd ever seen them do live before. And then there was The Body of An American and A Rainy Night in Soho, two songs off one of the best EPs ever released, the four tune Poguetry in Motion. Each of those also brought chills to the spine, especially during the slow 6/8 beat of the latter, which was helped out by the facts that not as many people were singing along with this more obscure tune. And of course, there was Postlibyan's favorite Pogues tune, Sally MacLennane, punctuated with the calls of "Far Away" from the entire crowd.

For their final final encore (which occurred nearly 2 hours into the set), the band launched into Fiesta, which if the crowd around me was any indication has somehow supplanted If I Should Fall From Grace With God as the most recognizable Pogues song. It was glorious, raucous moment, with the audience jumping up and down as one while Spider Stacy final pulled out the signature beer tray and began to beat it on his head. This was a true musical maelstrom, despite the heat, the drunkenness seen on the floor, and the muddy sound, that provided the perfect catharsis at the end of the set.

I have to admit that The Pogues performed better on this evening than I ever would have expected. Sure, the sound was atrocious and sure, the crowd in general seemed to believe that you must be falling down drunk to appreciate the band (you didn't). But once I got lost in the music, it was like the world receded and the band was the only real thing in the universe. And that was the quality I remembered from oh so long ago, and was perhaps one of the reasons I fell in love with them in the first place.

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