The National Concert Hall is not a place you’d square with the debaucherous life and career of Shane MacGowan. But, The Pogues singer was never one to sty inside the lines and the national venue is taken over for one night for a 60th birthday show in his honour.

As Damien Dempsey says on stage during his first of many rousing performances that runs for nearly three hours with an interval, “They said that Shane wouldn’t see 30, then 40, then 50, nevermind 60,” he said. “Betcha many of those people are dead now,” he joked.

On the night, a bewilderingly large cast of his friends and admirers (and the President of Ireland Michael D) assembled to sing his own songs back to the man who imbued Irish folk and trad with a punk verve and energy.

If you thought this was going to be a stuffy recital in Earlsfort Terrace, this is Shane MacGowan’s night. A three-song Pogues rock set from Glen Matlock of The Sex Pistols, Clem Burke of Blondie, The Pogues’ Spider Stacy and Jesse Malin opened the show with a bast and made it clear that this was to be no seated event.

The audience barely had a moment to sit down such was the excitement as each new performer appeared on stage introduced by broadcaster John Kelly. A conveyer of serious talent joined a house band featuring members of the Pogues including Jem Finer, Terry Woods and Cáit O’Riordan playing alongside Sharon Shannon, Steve Wickham of the Waterboys and more as a rotating cast of singers like Damo Dempsey, Nick Cave, Imelda May, Glen Hansard, Bobby Gillespie, Carl Barat, Camille O’Sullivan, Finbar Furey, Cerys Matthews paid tribute while upcoming and younger musicians whenyoung’s Aoife Power, Lankum, Cormac Begley and Lisa O’Neill did Macgowan’s songs in a respectful and capable manner.

There were the unlisted guests, of course.

Bono sang ‘A Rainy Night In Soho’ (and Johnny Depp did his noodly guitar thing with him), Dubliners’ John Sheahan added great texture to the night.

The highlights were many. Sinead O’Connor surprised all with a devastating performance of ‘You’re the One’. Cait O’Riordan returned the favour by singing ‘Haunted By The Ghost’ which O’Connor previously sang with MacGowan, Lisa O’Neill duetted with Terry Woods on ‘Streets of Sorrow / Birmingham Six’ and later, channels Kirsty MacColl on ‘Fairytale Of New York’ on a duet with Glen Hansard. Damien Dempsey gets the closest to Macgowan’s folk instincts on his trio of performances including the rousing drinking song ‘Sally MacLennane’.

The accumulative effect of established musicians performing whiskey-soaked hymns and jams, the gig feels less like a birthday gig and more of a funeral for Ireland, such was the ability of MacGowan to bury himself into the Irish psyche by writing spirited barstool songs along with insightful lyrics informed by Celtic emigrant romanticism.

By the time Nick Cave sat down beside MacGowan, who made his appearance during the finale, and the pair sang ‘Summer In Siam’, and are joined by every member of the cast and the President, there are tears around the room. A spontaneous Happy Birthday leads the frail MacGowan to respond in kind with ‘The Wild Mountain Thyme’.

The National Concert Hall has never seen the likes of it. And likely neither shall we.

Damo at Shame McGowan's 60th Birthday gig. A conveyor of brilliance.

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What a night ! ❤️ #shane60 #damiendempsey

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Photos: NCH

Posted on January 16th, 2018

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Headstuff’s No Encore podcast has a series with Kieran McGuinness of the band Delorentos that revisits a year in Irish music since 1980 and asks a panel of guests to weigh up the most notable albums of that year. It can be a fascinating delve into the history of Irish music particularly as a lot of the albums aren’t on streaming services or well-known in the now.

Here, Kieran McGuinness shares his top five rediscoveries from the show so far..


1.

Amusement – And after Optimism (1996)

Right back on the first episode we found a gem – A debut solo album released and quickly forgotten about by the artist – Jimmy Eadie from 90’s band Into Paradise. A belter of an album, very grungy, very indie, and very bitter; tracks like ‘And To This Day’ and ‘As It Is’ show off a mix of My Bloody Valentine, Pixies, and Eels – impressive when we found out that he played every instrument and recorded it at home on a 4 track recorder. It ended up being one of our albums of the year, and one of the finds of the Revisit project so far.


2.

Gemma Hayes – Night On My Side (2002)

Paul Noonan guested on the 2002 episode, and happened to play drums on this excellent album – Hayes’ debut. It was recorded by Dave Friedman (Flaming Lips, Mercury Rev) and sounds like a tight-as-fuck band in a room, very lively and lush, and quite American influenced – on the episode’s interview she tells the bizarre story of mixing the album in the woods of upstate New York during 9/11. A bit of a lost classic.


3.

The Blades – The Last Man In Europe (1985)

For whatever reason I missed this album up to now, but it more than lives up to its legendary status. It’s almost like a compilation album with the mixing of the styles, from mod to soul to pop, but always held together with great melodies and a subtle political edge, especially on tracks like ‘Downmarket”’. If you’ve also missed it, it’s worth a look.


4.

The Fatima Mansions – Lost In The Former West (1984)

Again, Fatima Mansions rang no bells when researching this episode, but this album is one of my favourites from this whole project. Cathal Coughlan and Andreas O’Gruama are angry, heavy, literate, punky and clever in this hurricane of an album – an absolute fucking classic. If you like Henry Rollins, or Manic Street Preachers, or a heavy version of Morrisey then put on The Loyaliser and turn it up. Cathal Coughlan deserves a seat at whatever musical high table Ireland has.


5.

U2 – The Unforgettable Fire (1990)

When I hear people talk about classic U2 albums it was always about Achtung Baby, Joshua Tree, or War; and if it was some other being talked about it was either the interesting 90’s output or their 2000’s “application to be the biggest band in the world”. The Unforgettable Fire is a far more interesting album than people give U2 credit for, and the sound of a big band experimenting, developing, and being creative. Songs like ‘Indian Summer Sky’, ‘MLK’, and the title track are not played off the radio, but they’re up there with their best. It’s not perfect, but it should be talked about more.


6.

Sinéad O’Connor – I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got

A lot of times when you look back on “classic” Irish albums they can disappoint or sound dated, but the most recent episode featuring 1990 brought a look at O’Connor’s 2nd album, and revealed it to be way way better with time. It’s confident, singular, political, and passionate, and it’s got ultimate sad banger ‘Nothing Compares 2 U’ Listen to this and you realise that behind the controversy and distractions is a hugely talented artist and voice. Sometimes revisiting these albums you find a new gem, and sometimes you find gems that needed another look.

Posted on July 26th, 2017

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If you’re going to make it in pop, you better have a good hairdresser. Just ask Brian May, Gene Simmons, Aretha Franklin, Busta Rhymes and Stevie Nicks. Here are ten of my favourite hair icons in music. Check out the Irish Independent’s Insider Magazine today for this week’s list of Summer Jams.


Listen to the Spotify playlist


Little Richard – Tutti Frutti

The ’50s entertainer and his shiny conk were ahead of their time, predating Prince by a good 27 years. With his pencil-thin mustache at the age of 81, he still looks like an original rock’n’roller.

Elvis Presley – I Need Your Love Tonight

The most famous quiff in pop culture left millions weak at the knees.

T-Rex – Ride A White Swan

As Glam as rock’n’roll got in the follicle department, Marc Bolan combined his perm with eyeliner and painted teardrops for the “I ain’t no square / with my corkscrew hair” look.

David Bowie – Suffragette City

The long red mulleted mane helped define Bowie’s most famous creation. No not the Jareth in Labyrinth, Ziggy Stardust of course!

Rick James – Bustin’ Out (On Funk)

The funkateer was inspired by the Masai Tribe to put braids into his hair. He went larger than any of them by adding beads too.

The Cure – The Lovecats

Robert Smith’s messy goth crop is the definition of two things: a) teenage rebellion and b) the outcome of accidentally poring a can of Coke on your head. Hair don’t cry.

Sinead O’Connor – Mandinka

A bigger statement than any hair style, still to this day for any woman, is a bald head. Interestingly, in the Nothing Compares 2 U video, O’Connor actually has some hair on her head.

Amy Winehouse – Rehab

As infamous as her voice, her troubles with addiction and her relationship, Amy’s beehive stayed tall and bouffant through it all.

Sia – Chandelier

The Australian singer’s blonde crop is iconic enough, it started a #siaselfie picture meme earlier this year.

La Roux – Bulletproof

A more subtle homage to the towering achievements of ’80s hair pop icons A Flock Of Seagulls, Elly Jackson’s wavy ginger cut looks like it got caught in a wind tunnel.

Posted on June 26th, 2014

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