Review: Shane MacGowan's birthday bash a fitting tribute to a great of Irish music

Australian musician and singer Nick Cave and Shane MacGowan perform together – they sang Pogues' classic Summer In Siam – on Monday night
Richard Purden

REVIEW: Shane MacGowan's 60th Birthday Celebration, The National Concert Hall, Dublin

SHANE MacGowan's star-studded 60th birthday celebration at the National Concert Hall got off to a rollicking start on Monday night when New York rocker Jesse Malin, Sex Pistol Glen Matlock, original Pogue Spider Stacy and Blondie drummer Clem Burke performed a spiky set of punk-flavoured MacGowan classics.

The early highlight – That Woman Got Me Drinking – saw Malin almost raise the roof. Pictures of a young MacGowan flashed across the back of the stage in black and white, bringing with them an evocative reminder of The Pogues at their peak.

Dublin favourite Damien Dempsey was given a rapturous welcome before a gallop through Streams of Whiskey, which helped further to set the tone of a night organised to lift the spirits of much-loved singer MacGowan, who lost his mother in a car crash just over a year ago.

When the MC, Enniskillen writer and broadcaster John Kelly, introduced The Broad Majestic Shannon as "flowing into Limerick", dedicating it to Dolores O'Riordan, it was clear some fans had not heard the news of her tragic passing earlier in the day and were left visibly shocked. Radio presenter and ex-Catatonia front woman Cerys Matthews brought her rich Welsh tones to the song, which suited her well.

Read more: Who is Shane MacGowan?

The house band, featuring the likes of Steve Wickham of The Waterboys on fiddle and Sharon Shannon on accordion, as well as Pogues Cait O Riordan, Jem Finer and Terry Woods, was something of a super group who more than captured the authentic sound of The Pogues in their finest moments.

Former Sex Pistols bassist Glen Matlock at the National Concert Hall on Monday

Perhaps there have never been so many Irish legends under one roof and it's fair to say that Finbar Furey's beautiful, romantic version of Kitty almost brought the house down in tears – despite the sense of joy, it was very much an evening wrapped in melancholy.

That was bolstered further when Sinead O'Connor appeared at the start of the second set, without fanfare but to warm applause, to perform the haunting ballad You're The One.

Scottish rocker and Primal Scream frontman Bobby Gillespie's palms brushed the air as he took on Pogues classic A Pair of Brown Eyes. Giving it the Screamadelica treatment, it sounded like it could have fitted on his band's classic album and it proved to be a highlight for long-time MacGowan manager Joey Cashman.

U2 frontman Bono looked humbled to be there despite being one of the biggest stars of the night; he was joined on guitar by movie star Johnny Depp, looking every inch the rock-god. The pair's chemistry was clear during A Rainy Night In Soho. Bono's vocal was spot-on and he, along with Depp, left the audience covered in stardust.

The imitable Nick Cave was given the gift of performing with the birthday boy for a mesmerising Summer In Siam. Although in a wheelchair, Shane's voice was intact and this dynamic pair, who first got together in the 90s to perform What A Wonderful World, left us with another wondrous moment to cherish.

Glen Hansard on stage at Shane MacGowan's birthday concert

Shane finished the night with the traditional ballad Wild Mountain Thyme before being presented with a lifetime achievement award by President Michael D Higgins as the galaxy of stars filled the stage to take a bow.

It's hard to imagine so many heavyweights of the arts and politics in one room but they filled it for one of Ireland's most influential and much-loved talents. The words legend and genius are overused daily but in MacGowan's case they are utterly appropriate.

Damien Dempsey at Monday's Shane MacGowan gig

Shane MacGowan receives a lifetime achievement award from President Michael D Higgins at the National Concert Hall on Monday night