The two most memorable episodes of the 'Late Late Show' in 2019 were tributes. The first was a tribute to a man who had sadly died, Gay Byrne. The second was to a man who has somehow cheated death, Shane MacGowan. MacGowan will turn 62 on Christmas Day and his life in music was honoured on the 'Late Late Show' last night, as a number of luminaries from the world of music and entertainment and Aidan Gillen gathered to toast the Pogues frontman.
The highlight was a performance of 'Fairytale Of New York' that featured country music queen Philomena Begley performing Kirsty McColl's segment of the song. Among others, Pat Shortt added support on the saxophone.
The performance was a testament to MacGowan's indomitable spirit despite the ravages of alcoholism and his genius as a lyricist. It was also difficult to watch at points (Begley seemed unsure of the lyrics at certain stages). As MacGowan's wife Victoria Mary Clarke has said many times, it's a miracle that MacGowan is still alive, given the amount of alcohol he has consumed in his lifetime. In that context, MacGowan's was in its way, miraculous.
Overall, the MacGowan segment drew criticism from some anti-alcohol campaigners for the placing of alcohol on set. RTE have defended the decision to set the programme in a 'bar' with drink visible. In a statement to Independent.ie, a spokesperson said:
"The Shane MacGowan segment of 'The Late Late Show' was in a bar room setting, as such locations were a major feature of Shane's musical career and a backdrop to his music and lyrics.
"These songs were discussed and performed on the show and the alcohol on set was in context with the performances and conversations involved."
For all the criticism of the segment, it's worth saying that MacGowan himself, especially on TV, is close to a walking advertisement against drink.
Glen Hansard and Lisa O'Neill's rendition of 'Rainy Night In Soho' was another highlight of the night.