- 16 Jan 18
It was an extraordinary night at the National Concert Hall...
It was a drizzly night in Dublin as the 1,000 or so admirers lucky enough to bag themselves a ticket for Shane MacGowan's 60th birthday bash arrived at the National Concert Hall. By the time they walked out elated three hours later, they'd been treated to a 30-song set of Pogues classics and a roll call of guests even more star-studded than the one advertised.
Things got off to a punky start with ex-Pistol Glen Matlock, Blondie's Clem Burke, Jesse Malin, Spider Stacy and ace session man Paul Cudderford blasting their way through 'You Looked So Pretty', 'The Woman Got Me Drunk' and the impossibly rude 'Hot Dogs With Everything' ("Got a fuck off a little yob/ Got a fix off a pick up job/ I was down on the ground in a stinking pub/ Giving head to a fat old slob/ Throwing up with his cock in my gob/ Blaaaahh!"), a Pogues rarity that featured in the Sid & Nancy biopic.
Terry Woods, Cait O'Riordain, Jem Finer, Steve Nieve and Sharon Shannon are among the house band that replace this wonderfully motley crew for the rest of the night, which ratchets up a gear with the triple whammy of Carl Barat's 'If I Should Fall From Grace With God', Damien Dempsey's faithful rendition of 'Streams Of Whiskey' - there are loud cheers as he points out that most of the people who prematurely wrote Shane's obituary are now themselves dead - and Cerys Matthews' impossibly gorgeous 'The Broad Majestic Shannon', which is touchingly dedicated to Dolores O'Riordan.
The Limerick connections don't end there with Aoife Power from London exiles whenyoung - she gets extra marks for rocking a red pant suit - absolutely nailing 'Dark Streets Of London'.
Ditto Camille O'Sullivan whose playful take on 'The Song With No Name' would doubtless have had Luke Kelly, who supplied the original air, looking down on the NCH and smiling.
I'm starting to run out of superlatives as Finbar Furey hushes the crowd with an acoustic 'Kitty', the prison ballad to end all prison ballads and one of the reasons why Nick Cave - more of whom anon - fell in love with Shane's writing all those years ago.
Terry Woods takes the mic for 'Streets Of Song/The Birmingham Six', which also affords us our first glimpse tonight of Lisa O'Neill, the Cavan songstress who later plays Kirsty to Glen Hansard's Shane on a sweet sounding 'A Fairytale Of New York'.
Not content with supplying some killer riffs, Cait O'Riordain leads the singalong version of 'Haunted', which segues perfectly into Damien Dempsey's terrace chanted 'Sally MacLennane'.
Glen Hansard has barely had the chance to get a Guinness down him when he returns, flanked by Dubliner John Sheehan, for 'The Bottle Of Smoke'. The "twenty fucking five to one" refrain is bellowed with such gusto that they can probably hear it on the other side of the Liffey. Glen slips a few bars of The Fat Man's 'Gloria' into 'Victoria' before Spider does the honours on 'The Boys From County Hell' and Imelda May freak dances her way through 'Fiesta'.
After a twenty minute break to allow gig-goers to stock up on minerals and Athlone Sweets, part two of the show kicks off with Sinéad O'Connor walking on unannounced - yep, her and Shane are friends again - and reminding us just what a plaintive love song 'You're The One' is. Looking and sounding great, the cheer she gets afterwards is deafening.
There are more magical moments as Lankum imbue 'The Old Main Drag' with their trademark close harmonies; Cormac Begley and Lisa O'Neill give 'Lullaby Of London' the box 'n' banjo treatment; Bobby Gillespie gets his croon on with 'A Pair Of Brown Eyes', and Camille O'Sullivan venomously spits out 'The Sick Bed Of Cuchulainn'.
The rumours swirling round the Concert Hall turn out to be true as Bono partners a guitar-playing Johnny Depp on 'A Rainy Night In Soho'. The line he throws in at the end from 'Linger' makes it an even more poignant affair. We're still pinching ourselves when Nick Cave launches into a deliciously dark 'Summer In Siam', which half-way through becomes a duet as Shane arrives on stage in a wheelchair pushed by his girlfriend, Victoria Mary Clarke.
His body may be failing, but Mr. MacGowan's voice remains a thing of weathered wonder. There's still time for one more surprise as, following a tender 'Will You Go Lassie Go', President Michael D. Higgins appears from the wings to present Shane with the National Concert Hall's Lifetime Achievement Award. As the birthday boy waves farewell, there truly isn't a dry eye in the house.