Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
July 22, 2010
POP CULTURE: Concert Review: The Saw Doctors at Irving Plaza, 5/14/10
So, among the many half-written or written-in-my-head posts is an overdue concert review of one of my favorite bands, the Saw Doctors, at Irving Plaza May 14. Here we go.
This was the third time I've had the pleasure of seeing the Irish pop-rockers in concert, the first two being in 2003 at Irving Plaza and 2004 at the Hammerstein Ballroom, both small indoor venues in Manhattan. The band was very much in their prime then; six years later the lineup has changed and they're just beginning to show the cracks of age (lead singer Davy Carton recently turned 50, the same age as his countryman Bono; he and Leo Moran are a little grayer now, but then so am I), but it's still a tremendous show, and the band debuted some excellent new material from their soon-to-be released album, unimaginatively titled The Further Adventures of The Saw Doctors, including my personal favorite, lead single Takin' the Train:
When I bought the tickets, there was no opening act listed. The day of the show, I was checking the Irving Plaza website for things like when the doors opened, and saw that the opening act was a guy named Pat Dinizio. Some readers will doubtless recognize the name, but I didn't; I thought maybe it would be some obscure young local artist or something. Instead, out on stage comes a heavyset, balding middle-aged guy in a T-shirt and a baseball cap and introduces himself as the lead singer of The Smithereens. It was just Dinizio and his guitar, but it turned out to be a good opener, as it dawned on the crowd that a lot of people knew more Smithereens songs than they thought. Dinizio was affable, telling stories about his best-known songs (how A Girl Like You was originally written for the film Say Anything and how the band was basically able to bank a year's earnings when a snippet of Blood and Roses got used for a Nissan commercial) and closing with a fine sing-along cover of Behind Blue Eyes.
From the first two Saw Doctors shows, I recalled liking Irving Plaza better, but my tastes have obviously changed. The Hammerstein (more on that here) may be kind of a dump, but Irving Plaza is so tiny and intimate, with what has to be a capacity of well under a thousand people - a good thing, you might think - that my ears couldn't handle the sound. I enjoyed the show, but I couldn't hear a thing for two days. For the next concert we're seeing (I'm taking my wife to see Maroon 5 at Jones Beach in August for, roughly, our 15th wedding anniversary), I may finally give in and try the earplugs my wife wears to shows.
Here's the set list; the band played 5 of the new songs (Takin' the Train, Addicted, Last Call, Indian Summer, and Hazard), all of which sounded good and allayed my fears that the new album might be too mellow (older rock bands are in trouble when they start heading in that direction); Takin' the Train in particular is a really good song, power pop as it was meant to be. One of the things that really marks the Saw Doctors as a great live act is their ability to sell songs you are hearing live for the first time. There were also four other songs that had been released since I last saw them - they opened with Last Summer In New York and also played Out for a Smoke, both off the 2006 album The Cure (their last studio album) and the 2008 singles About You Now and She Loves Me. I've blogged previously here about their cover of About You Now; it's one of the things I'd hoped to hear for the first time live and didn't disappoint. Unfortunately, that squeezed out room for some of the band's classics, like Joyce Country Ceili Band and the achingly beautiful World of Good, but that's live shows for you and the perils of recording too much good music. Anyway, after a protracted six-song encore including Hay Wrap (featuring a guest appearance by Carton's son) and a segue of Hope You Meet Again into the outtro from Hey Jude, it was hard to complain that the band hadn't gone on long enough.
If you ever get the chance to see the Saw Doctors live, don't think twice, get the tickets. It's truly a tremendous rock n' roll show.