Review: Shane MacGowan, Sharon Shannon, Mundy
Vicar Street, Dublin
SHANE MacGowan recently told an interviewer that he was "smoking and drinking and gambling" before he could talk.
Somehow his voice, whiskey aged and shrapnel sharp, has endured the vicissitudes: the most evocative croak in rock and roll can still raise goose-bumps and make the rafters tremble with lusty bonhomie.
The Pogues singer is "extra special" guest at a concert honouring the 21st anniversary of accordionist Sharon Shannon's life in music.
Puffier than you remember, that snaggletooth leer incongruously accessorising his big fleshy features, MacGowan arrives after two hours of relentlessly feel-good trad, a welcome dose of drizzle at the end of an evening of positivity.
Standing at a lectern, which he will grip on and off, he begins by barking and yelping through boozy emigration stomper 'The Irish Rover'.
Next is 'Dirty Old Town', Ewan MacColl's backhanded paean to Salford -- often mistaken for a slurred Valentine to Dublin (because Dublin is the only city in the world with canals and urban decay, obviously).
However, the true show-stopper -- judging by the weepy singalong it provokes at any rate -- is 'Fairytale of New York', the 1987 Pogues dirge adored by those who believe the miserable side of Christmas ought to be celebrated with greater regularity (not that MacGowan is exactly sobbing into his beer -- royalties from the tune reportedly brought him a £460,000 bonanza in 2013).
Stepping in for the late Kirsty MacColl is Wexford folkie Wallis Bird.
Stopping to sip from a glass of see-through liquid, MacGowan seems briefly confused as to his partner's name.
"Wallace Boyd!" he appears to rasp (it is possible he is merely clearing his throat and cackling at the same time).
Unperturbed Bird manages a decent approximation of the soulful bitterness the song demands, even if she lacks MacColl's gift for understatement.
Throughout, Shannon sits smiling left of stage, a wallflower at her own shindig. Not the sort to hog the spotlight, her role is more that of genial host than centre of attention.
She has already grinned and clapped through a short set by Mundy, providing game accompaniment to the Birr artist's earnest Springsteen-isms (he segues into the chorus of 'I'm On Fire', an extravagance considering the degree to which he's already channelling Bruce).
With the crowd exalting in the seasonal cheer, it takes a lot to top 'Fairytale of New York'. Shannon and company rise to the moment, uniting for a tilt at Steve Earle's 'Galway Girl'.
Amid all the cameos, Shannon is occasionally overshadowed, though this clearly doesn't cause any upset. It's her party and she'll play shy if she wants to.