Wednesday 21 November 2018

So much love in the house as our 'Last Waltz' dream comes true

Birthday tribute to 'a beautiful soul' was made extra special by our super-cool president, writes Victoria Mary Clarke

Johnny Depp, Shane and Victoria backstage
Johnny Depp, Shane and Victoria backstage

Victoria Mary Clarke

I'm having a terrible time motivating myself to do normal life. I have had a lot of highs in my life - but last Monday's birthday concert for Shane at the National Concert Hall in Dublin was the most momentous that I can remember.

I suppose it is like winning an Oscar. There is an awful comedown - but you just keep going over it in your mind even while you are washing the dishes and emptying the rubbish bins.

Gerry O'Boyle's idea for the concert was that it could be kind of an Irish Last Waltz, with lots of musicians performing Shane's songs. We sat together and drew up a dream list of who might do it. Johnny Depp, Nick Cave, Bono, Bobby Gillespie, Glen Hansard, Finbar Furey, Spider Stacy, Jem Finer, Terry Woods, Cait O Riordan, Carl Barat, Clem Burke and many more.

It was an eclectic mix, and the idea that all of these people would not only be willing but also be available was an enormously ambitious one. And when I said that I would love it if Sinead O'Connor could sing, we all thought that was asking a bit much.

But the dream came true. And it was magnificent, because it was something so much more than a bunch of very talented people playing brilliant songs. It was an explosion of love and good vibes, which climaxed with President Michael D Higgins onstage hugging Shane and presenting him with a lifetime achievement award that was so heavy you needed two hands to hold it.

I have never seen Shane as nervous about anything as he was about receiving that award, such is his admiration for the man who is possibly the coolest president any country has ever had.

While we were doing the photo call with Johnny Depp, Johnny told us that he has never in his life been to a country where people tell him that their president is cool, (especially not his own country) and after meeting Michael D and witnessing him hugging everyone in sight, he had to agree.

Some of the best moments happened in the build-up to the night. Like when our friend Johnny Cronin spent a whole day photographing suits so Shane could get one he liked. And when Shane reprimanded Nick Cave for getting the words wrong in the rehearsal. And during the dinner before the gig, when Sinead and Johnny Depp were discussing the American South, Shane and Bono were singing together

You always expect to be bored at a three-hour gig, you think there will be moments when you want to go to the bar. But I was bursting for the loo and could not tear myself away. I was so transfixed by every single performance that I even forgot to tweet or go on Facebook.

When Glen Hansard was singing Victoria, which includes the lines "Victoria, you left me in an opium euphoria, and went off with the fat man who sings Gloria" - and then segued into a Van Morrison song, just in case the audience didn't get it - I kind of did want to disappear. But I didn't punch him.

When Sinead sang You're the One, and the audience were screaming the standing ovation, Johnny and Bono agreed that they really did not want to have to follow her and Johnny suggested that they might have to set fire to something.

But when they got on stage together to do Rainy Night in Soho, they made such fireworks, that The Edge will have to watch out for his job.

Nick Cave told me that I had to wheel Shane on to the stage for their duet, and warned that I wouldn't have much time so I would have to speed-wheel. Which worried me, especially when I got my hem caught in my heel.

But it all worked out, and Shane and Nick sang together with such a look of devotion in their eyes that it made me cry.

It also made me cry when Nick left Shane on stage to sing by himself for the first time in years. Shane had chosen a song that he did not write and which he has never sung live or even recorded, Wild Mountain Thyme. Because he has been immobilised for so long, his lungs are not the best. I could feel the audience willing him to pull it off.

And he did it, with heart and soul. And it was brilliant.

When you get a bunch of A-listers together and they are all performing, you expect a certain amount of artistic temperament and tantrums. But astonishingly, we got the opposite.

People were falling over themselves to be polite and helpful. Johnny Depp was raised by a wonderful mother, and he went around opening doors for absolutely everyone, even for Bono, who decided he was going to have to start competing to be 'most polite'.

Even in the backstage area, everyone wanted a piece of Johnny Depp. With the jet lag, he must have been completely knackered. But he spent the entire after-show party posing for selfies with people and letting them kiss him.

Nick Cave, who used sometimes be known as 'The Prince of Darkness', was also exceptionally affectionate, and wandered around hugging total strangers all evening.

He and Bono and Bobby Gillespie even allowed the girls to photograph their asses for a rather humiliating 'smallest ass' competition in the dressing room, which Cillian Murphy suggested that he ought to be allowed to enter.

What I will remember most is the unbelievable amount of love in the house.

And that might be something to do with Shane. A beautiful soul, who inspires a great deal of affection, even from superstars.

Sunday Independent

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