When does being a legend stop being enough?

There has been much discussion today about the merits of a live performance of Fairytale of New York on last night’s Late Late Show.

Both Shane McGowan and his partner on the night – Philomena Begley – seemed unsure of the words at certain points in the song.

Criticism of the performance has centered mainly on this aspect, while the main line of defense seems to focus on the undoubtedly impressive track records of the two performers. To paraphrase – ‘these two are living legends of Irish music and so leave them alone’.

I remember a similar debate after a Stevie Wonder gig in Dublin last July – the point in question being if a performer who has been at the top of her/his game for years for years deserves any sort of a pass when they start to find things less easy in their later years. For whatever reason.

And in the end it probably comes down to the performer themselves.

The video of last nights performance seems to be no longer available online which probably means that someone involved wasn’t happy with it.

Because performers who have been at the peak of their powers for years aren’t fools. Anyone can make a mistake, but they will know if things aren’t right, and can spot if standards begin to reach an unacceptable level.

And while there will always be people who want to pay to see and hear these legends, this should not be the only factor in them considering when or what to stop.