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Shane MacGowan & the Popes

La Zona Rosa, November 25

Shane MacGowan sure has a funny way of saying howdy. "Hello San Francisco," he greeted the not-quite-sold-out La Zona Rosa crowd. "I hope there's no Mexicans or niggers out there." If he was looking for a way to shock the assembled even more than simply showing up, then mission accomplished. It certainly gave the audience something else to chew on besides his no-show at the previous night's Dallas engagement, which was the main topic of conversation as the Stones' Let It Bleed played over the PA and the club's supply of Jameson's and Bushmills was rapidly exhausted. Most likely MacGowan had been indulging a bit himself on the limo ride over from Bergstrom, but then this is a man who gives even less of a fuck about other people's opinions than Eminem. At any rate, once he started singing, the words coming out of his mouth were much more agreeable -- even if they weren't always exactly coherent. Opening with "If I Should Fall From Grace With God," the former Pogue and his five cronies made up for whatever he lacked in tact with driving, country-tinged Irish folk rock that would convert the staunchest Arsenal or Manchester U supporter to Celtic fandom. "Donegal Express" was next, and the gleam in his eye was real as he spat "I may have fucked your missus, but I never fucked your daughter." "Paddy Rolling Stone," from the Popes' most recent album Crock of Gold, turned into "Wabash Cannonball" on the instrumental breaks, and the bubbly banjo rolls on "Broad Majestic Shannon" had everyone doing the half-drunken sway. Having tossed most of his first pint to the crowd, MacGowan left for a refill as the Popes struck up a spirited instrumental, then returned for ghosts of pub-crawls past on Pogues standards "Dirty Old Town" and "Body of an American," even going back to the Gaelic firebrands' first album Rum, Sodomy, and the Lash for "Sally MacLennane" and "The Sickbed of Cuchulainn." For the encore, he chose what could have been the night's theme song, "Streams of Whiskey," and a ragged run through "Bottle of Smoke." Hoarse, tipsy, and all jigged out, the audience wobbled back to their cars. For "a drunken fuck on a Saturday night," it was a pisser, but it was still hard to ignore the acrid aftertaste of MacGowan's opening comments. Come back, Shane -- but if it's all the same, next time please leave the "nigger" talk on the plane.

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