In a game of two halves, Shane and The Pogues took a good-spirited Manchester Christmas crowd from 'putting up with MacGowans shambolic underperformance' to the throes of some of their best moments in over 20 years.
Taking to the stage with all of their original mid-80's line-up bar Cait, The Pogues kicked in with a somewhat muted and cautious couple of numbers, like there was something awry. Of course, Shane was his usual incomprehensive slurring self, but the crowd as ever cheered his every hopeless bark - and that was how his vocal sounded, a hopeless growl like he was being sick...out of tune. Maybe it's now become all part of the act - the band look at best bemused, and at worst irate at their main man limping on and off the stage for a lie down.
After an hour we thought "This is it, they've finally had it, which is why it's labelled 'The Farewell Tour' ". Even Phil Chevron, after singing his 'Thousands Are Sailing' himself, announced that although it was a Farewell Tour, they really didn't know if that would be the case...will he make another was the implication !
But from that point on there was a heave-ho and up they dragged their fine musical senses to lure the very best out of one of Irelands finest poets of the last century. Woods, Chevron, Stacey and Finer looked like they were finally enjoying it, and Shane (maybe having sobered just a tad), started to produce the violent roar that those of us who remember the 80's gigs were hoping for.
The serpent had been roused from its slumber and it swirled, jigged and swayed to the joys of Dirty Old Town, Sally Maclanann, Irish Rover, Turkish Song, and Fall From Grace.
Finally, after returning to the stage for a second encore almost two hours into the show, The Pogues blew a mad Fiesta, then re-enacted 'The Fairytale Of New York' with Ella Finer (daughter of Jem), to rapturous vocal accompanyment from the thousands. Snow poured onto the stage and our night was complete...not even a two hour journey home (only 35 miles) in 6 inches of snow could spoil our boys return to form.