TVD Live: Poguetry
in Motion at the Black Cat, 3/17

While we were away.Ed.

The Pogues and St. Patrick’s Day were always a natural combination to be celebrated by the Irish from any background. Many are the fans who clamored to see the Irish roots punk band on their annual March visits to the East Coast.

Nearly as welcome, then, is the tour by Poguetry in Motion, which played St. Paddy’s at the Black Cat in DC, for the first time in two years—shortly before the pandemic put a halt to their tour and nearly everything else in the performing world. There was some extra joy, then, at the simple pleasure of live music in a room full of grateful fans who had been unable to gather like this for a good long while.

Poguetry is the brainchild of Peter Richard “Spider” Stacy, the Pogues’ tin whistle player and late period sometimes frontman. While spending some time in New Orleans he crossed paths with the Grammy-winning zydeco outfit Lost Bayou Ramblers, realizing there were a few similarities to their approaches to roots music, if not their instrumentation (electric guitar and drums, but also fiddle and squeezebox).

Soon they were jamming on Pogues tunes and before long Cait O’Riordan, the original Pogues bassist, was on board as well. Carrying such key bona fides, a tour naturally followed. Their Black Cat show proved that with the penny whistle, the original vocals of O’Riordan and a steady drum (from the Ramblers’ Kirkland Middleton), they were able to conjure the best of things like “I’m a Man You Don’t Meet Everyday” from 1985’s Rum, Sodomy & the Lash, the source of so much material in the Pogues-centric set.

Stacy is not what you’d call a great singer, but he certainly fits in the line of gruff-voiced Pogues frontmen, from the originating soulful poet and terrible drunk Shane MacGowan, to the one-time tour stand-in Joe Strummer. Unlike his predecessor, Stacy was downing a lot of liquid on St. Paddy’s but it was all in the interest of hydration—emptying one bottle of water every couple of songs.

Though the setlist had been pretty much the same during the brief tour, he kept asking what the next song would be. Still, he was a strong conduit for the spirit of the original band and knew how to keep things lively. O’Riordan, for her part, mostly stayed in the shadows alongside the drums, as she played bass, bounced along to the tunes and occasionally took lead vocals.

Despite a surprisingly sloppy opening set of their own music, The Lost Bayou Ramblers largely kept up with the demands of the driving, crazed reels and throbbing ballads, behind the lead of fiddler Louis Michod, clad in coveralls festooned with autumn-colored camouflage. His strings, paired with his brother Andre Michot on cajun accordion (and sometimes picking at a lap steel guitar) added the necessary roots flavors that enhanced the authenticity of songs, much of it written by MacGowan, that picked up on the tone and detail of classic Irish balladry.

Jonny Campos’ electric guitar couldn’t be heard for most of the night, and Ramblers bassist Korey Richey shifted to acoustic guitar when O’Riordan took over on bass. Heavy on the classics, the Poguetry setlist also took advantage of post-MacGowan era period of the band when Stacy was stepping up as writer and singer.

Add to it O’Riordan’s classic Ronettes-style love song, “Haunted”—which she sang on the Sid & Nancy soundtrack and was later recorded as a duet between MacGowan and Sinéad O’Connor—and it was a solid setlist, with nostalgic crowd singalongs to “A Pair of Brown Eyes” and “Dirty Old Town,” and the expected explosions when they tore into driving anthems like “If I Should Fall from Grace with God,” “Streams of Whiskey,” or “London Calling”—the Clash standard thrown in to salute “our second lead singer,” as Stacy put it.

The encore began atmospherically with a slow reading of Brendan Behan’s “The Auld Triangle” that led easily into “The Body of an American,” a tune that shifts gears high enough to engage the last raging classic of the night, “The Sick Bed of Cuchulainn.” Let’s raise a whiskey (or bottle of water) that this March tradition keeps going next year.

Boys from County Hell
If I Should Fall From Grace with God
Tuesday Morning
Greenland Whale Fisheries
Si J’avis Des Ailes
London Girl
I’m a Man You Don’t Meet Every Day
Cotton Fields
A Pair of Brown Eyes
Dark Streets of London
Repeal of the Licensing Laws
Dirty Old Town
Mershin’ Derkin’
Turkish Song of the Damned
White City
London Calling
Streams of Whiskey

The Auld Triangle
The Body of an American
The Sick Bed of Cuchulainn

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