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-- Cecelia Porter
You know that feeling when the singer reaches the second verse of the national anthem, and the crowd switches from bellowing every syllable to awkwardly slurring the melody? That's what the vocals at a Pogues gig sound like. And we're not just talking about the crush of Guinness-sweating punters waiting impatiently to howl the chorus of "Sally MacLennane" or "The Body of an American." It's Pogues frontman Shane MacGowan, too -- especially him. Even back in the Irish trad-punk ensemble's Thatcher-era heyday, he disguised his poignant, funny lyrics beneath an unintelligible delivery.
Watching MacGowan, now puffy and paunchy, amble onstage at the 9:30 club on Sunday recalled Keith Richards's customary concert greeting, "It's good to be here. It's good to be anywhere." The years since the band sacked MacGowan for Winehouse-style problems in 1991 and reinstated him in 2001 (sporadic tours followed, but no new music) appear to have been anything but kind. But MacGowan still has a banshee wail to beat Howard Dean's, and the singer's abrasive growl is all a band this marvelous needs to give its amphetamine-spiked take on Irish folk a focal point.
The set started off shaky, MacGowan singing of "goin' where streams of whiskey are flowin'," and looking like he'd arrived there already. He grew more lucid and powerful as the evening gathered steam, through two hours and 26 songs, mostly from the Pogues' first three (and best) albums.
Singing their lone post-MacGowan hit, "Tuesday Morning," and other tunes, tin-whistler Spider Stacy proved himself an animated frontman, banging his head against a metal tray to give the closing "Fiesta" some extra percussion. Guitarist Phil Chevron, treated last year for throat cancer, sounded weak singing his own "Thousands Are Sailing" -- one of the band's finest recorded moments -- but you were glad he tried. Hearing him reminded us it's good to be anywhere. But to be here, with this band on this night, well, that was great.
-- Chris Klimek
When violinist Victor Danchenko joined the Arlington Philharmonic for a concerto on Sunday, he bowed first to the musicians, then to the audience before signaling for two stage lights to be dimmed and asking the first violins to scoot back a few feet. His requests only prolonged what had been an unusually long wait for his appearance onstage. But once settled comfortably, the soloist inspired some of the orchestra's best playing during a free afternoon program at Kenmore Middle School in Arlington.
Tchaikovsky's well-known violin showpiece -- the Concerto in D, Op. 35 -- was dispatched in a methodical manner by the Peabody Conservatory of Music faculty member. Danchenko's bowing technique yielded a brusque tone in the work's virtuosic sections. But during lyrical passages, particularly in the Canzonetta, he displayed an achingly beautiful sonority that was reflected in the orchestra's glowing winds and strings.
The 39 instrumentalists, under Music Director Ruben Vartanyan, gave the violinist ample opportunities to perform at his own pace. Danchenko seized them, sometimes delaying the ends of phrases, sometimes charging ahead with a fiery determination.