Live Review: The Pogues, The Barons Of Tang @ Festival Hall

11 April 2012 | 10:38 am | Guido Farnell

The Pogues are bringing down an unforgettable night of Rum, Sodomy and The Lash.

More The Pogues More The Pogues

Melbourne's own troupe of zany gypsy punks, The Barons Of Tang, energetically warm the gathering crowd at Festival Hall with a fine selection of Balkan-inspired bangers. The outfit dishes a largely instrumental but joyously life-affirming and exuberantly experimental mix of rockabilly, Eastern European punk, ska and gypsy folk, all of which frequently derails and descends into deranged, thrashing carnival and circus music. Fronted by Julian Cue on double bass and Don Carlos Parraga on accordion, the duo seem to lead the band but are inevitably upstaged by the fascinating antics of sax player Anna Gordon and Aviva Endean, who deals a lot of the group's riffs on a bass clarinet. Percussionist Annie Pfeiffer's galloping cowbells also prove to be an amusing treat. This is sadly one of the last opportunities for Australian audiences to enjoy this band's eclectic sounds since they are heading to America to seek fame and fortune.

The Pogues have brought their fans out in droves tonight. Touring the US and UK last year on what was billed as a “farewell tour” it seems likely that this will be our last chance to see The Pogues. Many are keen to ensure that seeing the classic line-up of the band, fronted by the iconic Shane MacGowan, is ticked off their musical bucket list. More seasoned punters regale us with stories of the last time they saw The Pogues some 25 years ago. The Clash's Straight To Hell introduces the band, who launch with Streams Of Whiskey. MacGowan's performance is relatively sedate. He seems to need little offstage rests throughout the gig but otherwise is in fine form. Into his 50s, MacGowan seems more weathered than his age suggests, but his gloriously croaky Tom Waits-esque growl perfectly suits the boozy drinking songs that seamlessly fuse Celtic folk rock with MacGowan's poetic lyrics and the furious angst of '80s punk. For one night only Festival Hall is transformed into a Irish pub called Pogue Mahone where the patrons are banging their tankards of ale on the table and singing along with the house band. The combination of accordion, banjo and guitars all combine to create that glorious sound for which The Pogues are renowned. Even at their most frantic, they provide a tight and highly focused accompaniment for MacGowan's loose ramblings. Amusingly, when MacGowan stops to mutter between songs it is impossible to understand a word. As they work their way through old favourites such as If I Should Fall From Grace With God and A Pair Of Brown Eyes, ageing punks and plenty of Gen X and Y engage in burly-yet-strangely gentle moshing that sees women and children pushed to the back. The Pogues are bringing down an unforgettable night of rum, sodomy and the lash. There is nothing to do but throw your arm around the fella next to you and dance like a sailor letting off steam during a big night on the town. Playing a greatest hits show of timeless classics, fans can't get enough of favourites such as Sunny Side Of The Street and Thousands Are Sailing before emotional versions of And The Band Played Waltzing Matilda (which MacGowan skips a few verses of) and of course Dirty Old Town.

The first encore deals a simply breathtaking version Rainy Night In Soho, recalling a time before the gentry invaded when Soho was still luridly XXX. The second encore rounds off the evening on a rousing note with the riotous drinking songs Poor Paddy and Fiesta, which sees Spider Stacy enthusiastically hitting a beer tray over his head in time to the music. As many leave drunkenly singing Dirty Old Town, it is clear that The Pogues have delivered a hugely satisfying show.