MacGowan and the Popes Still Set the Stage Ablaze

It borders on the miraculous that Irish rocker Shane MacGowan can say, “I’m still standing,” after all the abuse he’s put his body through during his 43 years. Given the degree to which he’s still indulging his fondness for whiskey, according to recent published interviews, some nights it’s a minor miracle that he can say, “Hello.”

The notoriously erratic, hugely gifted singer-songwriter grasped the microphone stand Tuesday at the House of Blues in Anaheim as if clinging to the mast of a storm-tossed ship, yet he and his band, the Popes, blazed through a supercharged 90-minute set.

For the record:

12:00 a.m. April 18, 2001 For the Record
Los Angeles Times Wednesday April 18, 2001 Home Edition Calendar Part F Page 2 Entertainment Desk 1 inches; 26 words Type of Material: Correction
MacGowan show--In a pop music review in Tuesday’s Calendar, the day of Shane MacGowan & the Popes’ performance at Anaheim’s House of Blues was stated incorrectly. The concert was Sunday.

His voice, thankfully, has a life of its own. After a slurry start, it awoke suddenly and began ripping chain saw-like into his short-story-quality tales of gritty life among the downtrodden working class.

The sing-along-ready set spanned signature tunes from his days fronting the Pogues (“Pair of Brown Eyes,” “Streams of Whiskey”) to equally colorful Popes numbers (“Paddy Rolling Stone,” “Paddy Public Enemy No. 1") and close-to-the-heart outside material (Hank Williams’ “The Angel of Death,” Ewan MacColl’s “Dirty Old Town”).


The rabid crowd that packed the club’s dance floor cheered his every swagger, but there was little romantic about the sight of a songwriter as talented as MacGowan seemingly intent on living out one of his tragic ballads of hope abandoned and life wasted.

* Shane MacGowan & the Popes, with Palo Alto, today at the Viper Room, 8852 Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood, 10 p.m. (310) 358-1880.