March 10th, 2012, 4:12 pm · · posted by GUEST
Flogging Molly leader Dave King is among a select batch of songwriters whose sharp, socially conscious lyrics give working-class standard-bearer Bruce Springsteen a run for his money. Evidence can be found amid the Celtic punk band’s nearly year-old current album Speed of Darkness, for which many tunes were inspired by America’s recession.
Irishman King started the band 15 years ago in Los Angeles. He and wife Bridget Regan (also the group’s fiddler) maintain dual residences in Detroit and the Emerald Isle – places that were both hard hit by the shaky global economic climate.
Released on Flogging Molly’s own Borstal Beat label last May, Darkness entered the Billboard 200 chart at No. 9, a testament to the septet’s still-burgeoning fan base. They also recorded “The Times They Are a-Changin’ ” for Chimes of Freedom, a four-disc Bob Dylan tribute from January benefiting Amnesty International.
Friday night at City National Grove of Anaheim, the 8th annual Green 17 Tour gave the group’s always rambunctious followers an excuse to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day early. Before proceedings got underway, the merchandise table was doing brisk business (kudos for offering reasonably priced T-shirts). I can’t recall seeing such a long line blocking the Grove bartender’s station before.
The sold-out, nearly two-hour show kicked off in exhilarating style with the fiery title track from 2002’s Drunken Lullabies. Robert Schmidt’s quick banjo picking immediately prompted pogo action in the pit as strings of small light bulbs draped overhead flashed.
They next headed straight into “Requiem for a Dying Song” at breakneck pace, and it wasn’t long before people moshed up a storm within the venue’s first two tiers. King furiously sang and strummed an acoustic guitar while his fellow musicians played accordion, violin, banjo, mandolin, electric guitar and more with constant intensity.
Most of the set was drawn from Darkness, Lullabies and the band’s 2000 debut Swagger, each represented by a half dozen selections – some not performed in a while. Gregarious as usual, King ruminated about European soccer, provided song insights and recalled an early-career O.C. gig at Linda’s Doll Hut.
On an ominous version of “The Power’s Out,” George Schwindt played a martial drum beat while King used a bullhorn and chastised corporate CEOs. He sang with conviction about the aftermath of their actions: “From the town of Detroit where my job is secure / Secure in the fact that it’s gone for good / So I’ll scrimp and I’ll scrape at this pension I saved / So it should be gone by the end of the day.” It was totally riveting.
Regan’s beautiful tin whistle and lilting violin work on various tunes (like “Life in a Tenement Square” and “A Prayer for Me in Silence,” for which she also added sweet co-lead vocals) softened the raucous impact. A brief acoustic segment, including “The Son Never Shines (On Closed Doors)” – “about being a bad son” – also provided a welcome breather from the relentless pace.
Later, an extended “Black Friday Rule” gave Schwindt and guitarist Dennis Casey a chance to flaunt their musical chops, albeit for a bit too long on Casey’s madman solo part.
Before the powerful one-two punch of “Rebels of the Sacred Heart” and “Devil’s Dance Floor,” King said “after I first left Ireland, it was great not to have religion on my back anymore. But I worry about these GOP (presidential candidates) who want to send us back to the Spanish Inquisition.” That drew a smattering of boos.
The aforementioned Dylan cover was given the usual Flogging Molly treatment and proved a perfect fit. Fans continued to loudly chant along to the band’s lyrics right until the end of the evening, capped by the feisty, traditional concert-closer, “Salty Dog.”
L.A. punk rock guitarist Zander Schloss (ex-Circle Jerks, Thelonious Monster) and singer Sean Wheeler (formerly of O.C.’s Throwrag) offered a half-hour opening acoustic set. The ragged, sometimes profane folk music from their latest album came off blandly here, but it would probably go down well at the next Hootenanny.
Suedehead, one of the younger acts headed to Coachella next month, was far more entertaining. The local septet’s 40 minutes provided a punchy, modern mix of ’60s-era Northern U.K. soul and the Jam’s later work.
Expatriated British singer/guitarist Davey Warsop (left) continually sought audience participation and mostly got it, despite a large drunken lunkhead shouting “go home.” A small group of concert-goers danced up a storm in the pit area. Highlights included the horn-accented “Young and in Love,” the melodic, bass-driven “All I Need,” the swelling organ of “No Pain” and “Small Town Hero.”
Setlist: Flogging Molly at City National Grove of Anaheim, March 9, 2012
Main set: Drunken Lullabies / Requiem for a Dying Song / Speed of Darkness / Revolution / Life in a Tenement Square / Whistles the Wind / Saints and Sinners / The Likes of You Again / Swagger / The Power’s Out / The Son Never Shines (On Closed Doors) / A Prayer for Me in Silence / Float / Black Friday Rule / Oliver Boy (All of Our Boys) / Rebels of the Sacred Heart / Devil’s Dance Floor / If I Ever Leave This World Alive / What’s Left of the Flag / Seven Deadly Sins
Encore: The Worst Day Since Yesterday / The Times They Are a-Changin’ / Salty Dog
Review by George Paul, for the Orange County Register. Photos by Kelly A. Swift, for the Register.
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