Live: The Pogues (and The Wire’s David Simon) at the Roseland


The Pogues
Roseland Ballroom
March 14

Minutes before the Pogues’ Saturday set, one ponytailed concertgoer, sporting fuchsia sunglasses and the only suit in a horde of green rugby shirts, cut the queued skinheads in a bid for his will call ticket. His audacity provoked intervention from David Simon, the proletarian creator of revered HBO series The Wire, who had been waiting patiently with his son. After a healthy exchange of profanities, Simon dished an even healthier public shaming to the bloke who asked, “Does it really matter?” — he pointed to the line and whooped, “We matter! We matter!”

With Simon as our champion — the audience was as brash as the band. While the cittern and pennywhistle players chugged away at “Sally MacLennane,” youngsters in tweed caps jigged along with linked arms, and although frontman Shane MacGowan slurred his way through “If I Should Fall From Grace With God,” the crowd knew every word. In fact, the only intelligible phrases to come out of MacGowan’s mostly-toothless mouth were 1) “we’re drunk,” and 2) “General Franco, everybody!” When the singer stopped the music with a stream of verbose garble, a thick brogue carried from the back of the packed hall: “Start singing, ya lazy bastard!”

“Body of an American,” a staple at each dead cop’s wake on The Wire, was as close to a ballad as the band dared venture on the second night of their now-annual St. Patrick’s Day stand. Spider Stacy, taking over banter duties from an increasingly belligerent MacGowan, dedicated the song to the Simon family. When the time came, the crowd erupted in a juiced-up hurrah: “I’m a free born man of the USA!” You’re damn right, we matter. — Michael Downes

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