The Pogues/ The Saw Doctors - MEN Arena - 18.12.04

It was an Irish reunion this pre-Christmas party evening, as two of the most vibrant bands from over the water joined a packed and jovial Manchester Arena a Christmas party to end all Christmas parties.

First up were Galways The Saw Doctors, whos rooted rock and blend of country, punk, and pop, with a hint of rock and roll, made them the perfect choice to open for the equally diverse, The Pogues.

As the fun filled band played their way through crowd favourites including the vibrant Tommy K and N17 they spread festive spirit amongst the ardent audience, as infectious dancing, clapping and singing spread around the cavernous venue, making it feel a tad more intimate .The melodic hooks and often-heartfelt lyrics were met with some upbeat Irish jig like music, which just added to the fun and generated some vibrant dancing amongst the floor area.

This vibrant and uplifting set came just in time for the festive season, and a good time was had by all. The end was by far not near, as one great band leaves us to eat drink and be merry, the way was paved for yet another party, and by the time you had been to the bar for your Guinness, youd be ready to toast Shane McGowan and the gang.

It was a packed evening; the stage was full of musicians, with the original line up of The Pogues present and, the arena was brimming with merry hopefuls in search of a party to end all parties. Yet, one person stood out, quite why he stood out; well you had to be there. The larger than life Shane McGowan stumbled onto the stage and more or less fell into opener ' Streams of Whiskey ', but straight away all that had gathered jumped into their dancing shoes and the merriment had begun.

'It's good to be back in Liverpool.'

These were the first audible utterances from the main man McGowan, who was his usual inimitable self all night, with one of his memorable moments being when he found time to have a go at the Manchester United football team; calling them all "Puffs". For all his drunken exuberance and cockiness Shane McGowan didn't miss a line all night, this was by no means whatsoever a freak show, which some cynics would argue that a gig involving the eponymous Irishman is reduced to these days. Cait O'Riordan provided some glamour to the evening by joining the gang for a crisp version of 'I'm A Man You Don't Meet Everyday' and of course, she returned later for a stirring and breathtaking version of the classic 'Fairytale Of New York'. Highlight track on a vibrant, entertaining and enigmatic set was the anthemic Gaelic pub number; 'Irish Rover' that was sung with passion and spirit by the showstopper Mr. Shane McGowan. Let's hear it for Shane McGowan and the guys!

David Adair & Katherine Tomlinson

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