I was probably the only person in the country not to have seen The Saw Doctors live, so on Saturday April 2nd, I headed to The Olympia Theatre in Dublin to check them out.
Threading the boards first though, were Keith Mullins and his band. I had prior knowledge of Keith’s music and he appeared on Culture Cafe but had never seen him with a full band.
Playing tracks from his album ‘Across The Ocean’ and a couple from what Keith described as ‘hopefully album number 2’, Mullins and Co warmed up the audience with their brand of country folk. The full band sound definitely adds a different dimensions to Keith’s Americana sound.
As I waited for The Saw Doctors to come on stage it felt like this was almost a rite of passage, something that you must do as part of Rick O’Shea’s Irish Citizenship Test. Everyone else had already passed, I was about to take the test.
There were roars of approval (and laughter) as the backdrop was lowered onto the stage, showing the band in SuperHero garb a la their last album, ‘The Further Adventures of..’ The Olympia erupted as The Saw Doctors came on, to be fair to the original guys, they’re no spring chickens and its twenty one years since ‘Useta Love Her’ fever but they immediately stamped their partying authority on proceedings with ‘Takin’ The Train’.
If Ireland has a YMCA type song then ‘Tommy K’ must be it. Uberfun was had by both the audience and the band trying to get all the dance moves in on time, Davy Carton just about keeping his balance. The Saw Doctors gig that I had imagined was an action packed, non stop bouncing and lots of Irish-isms. ‘N17’ manages to do all three with a crowd acapella sing along at the end.
A few songs in, I wondered if The Saw Doctors would be able to keep up the pace. Tracks from the current album and ‘from the archives’ drop the pace a little and receive a polite response from the audience, they’re here for the hits. They don’t have to wait too long, the Mayo posse in the house shouting the ‘Green and Red of Mayo’ but it’s ‘Useta Love Her’ that really sets the place alight with a rocked up version.
The Saw Doctors attract a diverse audience, two hen parties, one from Scotland, young guys in their early twenties, clinging to the front barrier, a couple possibly in their sixties giving it loads five rows from the front. The further into the set the band goes, the more opportunity there is for them to dance.
You got to hand it to the Saw Doctors, they know their audience and how to get them in the palm of their hands. They know what makes them tick. Yes, this is Dublin but you can see what it is about songs like ‘Clare is the Land’ or ‘Joyce Country Ceili Band’ that would make ex-pats love them. They’re the music version of RTE television’s, Nationwide programme.
While Carton and Leo Moran may be the only original members, they have surrounded themselves with excellent musicians. Drummer, Eimhin Craddock and keys player Kevin Duffy have also added a more youthful dimension to the band. A special mention must go to former Waterboy, Anthony Thistlewaite, who moved with ease from bass to saxophone to lead guitar and back.
Sugababes’ ‘About You Now’ gets an airing and shows why The Saw Doctors’ cover became such a hit. The audience are constantly being built up with the shouty ‘That’s what she said’ before ‘On My Way’, after which the band leave the stage.
Even if the band wanted to go home, I’m not sure they could at this stage, each audience member willing them back to the stage. 2010’s Christmas hit, ‘Red Cortina’, gets an airing in its a cappella form. The pace is quickly built back up with ‘Macnas Parade’.
Mayhem ensues as ‘Hay Wrap’ shakes the venue’s foundations. The entire standing audience seem to be bouncing in unison. On the upper circle, some young gents are giving it loads. Looking at the security guards faces, the enthusiasm of the fans and closeness to the edge, is frightening the bejaysis of of them. The whole venue is moving and shouting ‘Hay Hay’ at the top of their lungs, except for the couple half way down the venue who are getting the shift.
The Saw Doctors wouldn’t be my bag but I can definitely appreciate their ‘Local God’ status. They entertained the audience with an astonishing 27 song set. Music and laughs on a Saturday night, what more could you want?