Oct. 31, 2007 @ The Wiltern
By China Bialos
Narrowing my hundreds of concert experiences down to a single favorite is rather difficult, largely because the majority of my highlights and rare opportunities occurred outside of Los Angeles. The Good, The Bad and The Queen in San Francisco? Nancy Sinatra or Billy Childish in Seattle? Good luck replicating those, self. When I dig a bit deeper and look to my earliest concert experiences, I'm stuck with embarrassing memories born out of high school tastes, stemming from an oblivion to anything that wasn't played on KROQ between 1995 and 2002. The bitterness of having to watch Bad Religion open for Blink 182 at the Long Beach Arena. Skipping the Homecoming dance to join my mom for Stone Temple Pilots at the Universal Amphitheatre (which, naturally, boasted openers Godsmack and Disturbed).
But plenty of worthwhile bands have popped up around Los Angeles. It wasn't until returning to the city after college, though, that I got over my fear of our freeway system and learned to navigate well enough to explore the many venues of L.A. proper. Unfortunately, I was also post-college poor until getting a respectable job at 23, so I had to be picky about my entertainment choices for a bit.
It was a big splurge, then, to shell out the $55 for a ticket to see the Pogues at the Wiltern in 2007. Yes, a major portion of these funds went straight to Ticketmaster. Before then, I had never paid more than, I don't know, twenty bucks for a concert ticket. So this Halloween show marked the first time I had been a proper adult about spending money on a proper concert ticket for a seated show.
The Pogues played a marvelous set, mostly from their brilliant, two-decades old folk-punk albums If I Should Fall From Grace with God and Rum, Sodomy & the Lash. The lineup, filling the entire Wiltern stage, celebrated Halloween approximately once, by putting on costume hats about halfway through, giggling about it all the while, and matching the mild holiday enthusiasm of the audience, in which only a handful of scattered people had shown up in costume.
They packed two hours of music into a set that followed the casual, conversational William Elliott Whitmore and the overly chatty Ted Leo, and were missing guitarist Phil Chevron, who was being treated for throat cancer (He has since recovered.).
Frontman Shane MacGowan, 49 going on 80, had grown lumpy and tired, hiding
behind a long, black coat, limping offstage every few songs, lisping through a gummy smack as a man only could after losing the majority of his teeth – no doubt the result of forty drinking years. MacGowan also suffered from a good deal of Ozzy-itis, slurring some unintelligible speech between songs but singing with near-perfect clarity. What's that, Shane?
I had been too cheap or too broke to splurge on standing tickets on the main floor, so I had sat up in the top mezzanine, which was about a third full, maybe two-thirds empty. Somewhere near the end of the show, I turned to the people behind me.
"Has he got any teeth left?" I asked them, referring to the pirate-like MacGowan.
"One tooth," a guy said. "He's got one tooth."
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