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Past Times

Shane MacGowan: From Fairytale of New York to chaos in Kinross when The Pogues played T in The Park

Shane MacGowan was far from on his best behaviour when The Pogues played T in the Park in 2008 - and the Kinross crowd loved it. reports.
Graeme Strachan
Shane MacGowan was worse for wear during his time in Perthshire. Image: DC Thomson.
Shane MacGowan was worse for wear during his time in Perthshire. Image: DC Thomson.

Shane MacGowan was far from on his best behaviour when The Pogues played T in the Park in 2008.

The man who wrote Fairytale of New York flouted the smoking ban and arrived on stage drunk where he mumbled into the microphone and kept missing his cues.

But this was a music festival and Shane MacGowan was as rock ‘n’ roll as it gets.

The crowd chanted his name and the band made sure Balado was bouncing.

Not a fairytale, perhaps, but a magical moment for music fans who were swept away by the Irish rover, who has died at the age of 65.

MacGowan became involved with the burgeoning punk movement in the 1970s.

He formed his own punk band before a revival in ethnic musical influences led him to form The Pogues in 1982, which played traditional Irish and rebel songs.

The band reached their critical peak with the 1985 album Rum, Sodomy and the Lash, and their commercial peak with 1988’s If I Should Fall From Grace with God.

King Tut’s Tent was full to capacity

The band were making their first appearance at T in the Park in 2008.

Joining the rebel rousers on the bill were REM, Primal Scream, Kings of Leon, Amy Winehouse, the Prodigy, Rage Against the Machine, Stereophonics and Eddy Grant.

The Pogues played the King Tut’s Tent on Saturday night, before headliner Ian Brown, and MacGowan was rarely without a drink to hand backstage ahead of the performance.

The tent was at capacity by the time The Pogues arrived.

Shane MacGowan and The Pogues performs at T in the Park in 2008. Image: PA.
Shane MacGowan and The Pogues performs at T in the Park in 2008. Image: PA.

The band ripped into Streams of Whiskey following a short instrumental and MacGowan walked on stage puffing a cigarette despite Scotland’s smoking ban.

None of the security guards braved a confrontation with him to remind him.

“It’s nice to be back in Scotland,” he said.

The 13-song set focused on songs from their first three albums, including If I Should Fall From Grace With God, The Broad Majestic Shannon and A Pair Of Brown Eyes.

Shane MacGowan gives the thumbs up during his Balado set. Image: DC Thomson.
Shane MacGowan gives the thumbs up during his Balado set. Image: DC Thomson.

MacGowan filled in the gaps between his slurring vocals by aggressively swinging the microphone like a slingshot while getting down with his best dad dancing moves.

The odd thing was that the more he messed things up, the more the audience enjoyed it.

He left the stage and Tuesday Morning was sung by tin-whistle player Spider Stacy, who briefly took over lead vocals when MacGowan was booted from The Pogues in 1991.

MacGowan staggered back on stage to belt out the closing numbers including a version of Dirty Old Town which received the biggest sing-a-long of the evening.

McGowan and The Pogues on stage at T in the Park
The rebel rousers put on a typically energetic performance at T in the Park. Image: DC Thomson.

The crowd didn’t care he could barely stand, never mind sing.

They loved every second and chanted: “There’s only one Shane MacGowan!”

The knees-up Fiesta closed the set.

MacGowan left the stage to huge cheers — still holding a cigarette in hand.

The entire tent was singing along with Shane McGowan

Courier music writer Alan Wilson in his column said it was a rousing piece of nostalgia and was slightly more complimentary with regards to MacGowan’s vocal range.

Shane MacGowan never let a cigarette leave his hand during the stormy gig. Image: DC Thomson.
Shane MacGowan never let a cigarette leave his hand during the stormy gig. Image: DC Thomson.

He wrote: “Shane MacGowan was nowhere to be seen when the band first took to the stage and were forced to run through a brief instrumental before he appeared.

“After tearing through Streams of Whisky, he mumbled and fumbled his way through a couple more songs before disappearing off stage again to allow the band to run through Tuesday Morning, one of their post-MacGowan songs.

“Fortunately, when he came back he was a little more in control – still utterly incomprehensible when speaking to the crowd between songs, but, fortunately, his singing voice was much better.

“The band’s version of Dirty Old Town had the entire tent singing along and, although The Pogues now are a shadow of the force they were 20 years ago, when MacGowan could justifiably claim to be the best songwriter around, it was a rousing piece of nostalgia.”

Being the height of summer, the band omitted Fairytale of New York from the set.

Believe it or not, the duet with Kirsty MacColl only reached No 2 in the charts in 1987, because Always On My Mind by the Pet Shop Boys was Christmas No 1 that year.

A rush of downloads each year, though, means the song has actually charted every Christmas since 2005, going top-10 four times — a feat no other single can match.

MacGowan was due to celebrate his 66th birthday on Christmas Day.

Who would bet against the song reaching the summit in tribute?

It would be a fitting farewell to the last Irish rover.

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