The Pogue Traders

St Albans & Harpenden Review: Shane Macgowan they ain't, jolly good they are Buy this photo » Shane Macgowan they ain't, jolly good they are

If a better reason was needed to re-introduce smoking to our public houses then I doubt the do-gooders responsible for its banning could have found a more compelling case than at the Horns on Saturday night.

The dank, stale aroma of tobacco and nicotine is one thing. The foul and acrid pong of another man’s bottom, however, is quite another.

Just as well, then, that the Pogue Traders were plenty good enough to make up for one or two rather gassy punters at the ever enjoyable Hempstead Road venue.

Part two of a weekend of St Patrick’s Day celebrations, which also welcomed the U2’s (Thursday), Van the Man (Sunday), and house favourites Wing and a Prayer (Monday), saw the Pogue Traders welcomed by a bustling Saturday night crowd.

Now, anyone who tells you that U2 are Emerald Isle’s most noteworthy export is either deaf, plain mad, or simply overly fond the band’s hideous brand of preening, pompous, self serving tosh.

Sure enough, the slurring, alcoholic, gap-toothed genius of Shane MacGowan and the lads mightn’t be everybody’s cup of tea; but for me, and, I hope, to many others, the Pogues are simply irrepressible.

Mimicking such a unique act, though, is never going to be easy.

It is a task, however, that front man Lou O’Kill (really, that isn’t a stage name) takes to with some aplomb.

A man who (thankfully) looks nothing like his idol, O’Kill mimics with commendable vigour the drunken, and at times visceral, vocal style of Shane McGewan.

“We’ve been playing together for about two years,” says accordion player Tony Regan of the London-based seven piece.

“We came together just through a love of the band but it’s worked really well. It’s music that is great fun to play and, we hope, great fun to listen to.”

Great fun it most certainly was, with the vast majority of Pogues classics shoe-horned into a tight, two halved set, including Streams of Whisky, Dirty Old Town (plus sing along) the Irish Rover and Sally MacLennane.

If your feet don’t tap for that lot then I reckon there’s something seriously wrong with you.

And don’t just take my word for it. One of my favoured devices for judging the virtues of a gig (or otherwise) comes through a visit to the gents’; an unpleasant but, more often than note, candid forum of public opinion.

“Absolutely brilliant,” bellowed one guest as I washed my hands and prepared to depart.

Frankly I couldn’t agree more! For more info see www.poguetraders.co.uk

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