Monday, March 12, 2012

Flogging Molly concert review: Anaheim

A version of my review originally appeared at

Photos by Kelly A. Swift.

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 impressive current album “Speed of Darkness,” where many tunes were inspired by America’s recession.

Irishman King (pictured above, far left) started the band 15 years ago in Los Angeles. He and wife/band mate Bridget Regan maintain dual residences in Detroit and the Emerald Isle – places that were both hard hit by the shaky world economic climate.

Released on Flogging Molly’s own Borstal Beat label last year, “Darkness” entered the Billboard 200 chart at No. 9, a testament to their still-burgeoning fan base. The septet also recorded “The Times They Are a-Changin’” for “Chimes of Freedom,” a multi-disc Bob Dylan tribute collection benefiting Amnesty International.

Friday night at City National Grove of Anaheim, The Eighth 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 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 to 2002’s “Drunken Lullabies.” Robert Schmidt’s quick banjo picking immediately prompted pogo action in the pit as strings of small light bulbs that were draped overhead flashed.

Heading straight into “Requiem for a Dying Song” at breakneck pace, it wasn’t long before people moshed up a storm inside 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, bass and drums with constant intensity.

Most of the set was drawn from “Darkness,” “Lullabies” and “Swagger,” each represented by a half dozen selections – some not performed in awhile. 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 “The Power’s Out,” George Schwindt played a martial drum beat. 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 (“A Prayer for Me in Silence,” which she also sang sweet co-lead vocals; “Life in a Tenement Square”) softened the raucous music’s impact. A brief acoustic segment, including “The Son Never Shines (On Closed Doors)” – “about being a bad son” – 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 a bit too long on Casey's madman solo part).

Before the powerful 1-2 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,” to a smattering of boos. 

Guess those people didn't pay much attention to the latest album's lyrics.

The previously mentioned Dylan cover was given the usual Flogging Molly treatment and a perfect fit. Fans continued to loudly chant along to the band’s lyrics right until the end of evening with 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) did a half-hour opening acoustic set. The ragged, sometimes profane folk music from their latest album came off blandly here, but would probably go down well at the next Hootenanny Festival.   

Suedehead was far more entertaining. The young local alt-rock septet’s 40-minutes onstage was a punchy, modern mix of ‘60s era Northern U.K. soul and The Jam’s latter period.

British ex-pat singer/guitarist Davey Warsop (pictured near right) continually sought audience participation and mostly got it, despite a large drunken lunkhead shouting “go home.” A small group of concertgoers danced up a storm in the pit area.

Highlights included the horn accented “Young and in Love,” melodic bass line driven “All I Need,” swelling organ in “No Pain” and “Small Town Hero.” 

Setlist: Flogging Molly, 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


Northwest Concert & Events Blog said...

Wow! Great concert review. I found it very interesting to read because I love the artist you featured in this review. Nice.

Anonymous said...

Nice concert review.