The Saw Doctors
@ Leeds Irish Centre

“Good evening, how are you all?” Leo and entourage are back, walking on to the Star Trek theme tune. And god bless them, it’s time for a party. A Saw Doctors audience is like nothing so much as a Grateful Dead audience used to be (minus the drugs….) – people know most of the songs and aren’t threatened by the new ones. That’s of course because the new songs follow the same lines as the old ones so we don’t lose the thread but it’s a long way from the traditional rock formula of ‘cheer the old stuff, stand, hands in pockets, for the new stuff’. It’s a non-threatening audience, no edgy pint-spilling fight edginess. It’s all ages – from teens to grans. I’m up at the bar and people are ordering rounds of Guinness, sherry and lemonade, port and lemon.

Davy, as with most of the songs, takes the lead with A17 – a song of love for the road to Galway – “stone walls and the grass is green” – hands punch the air and everyone sings along. Swiftly after, another happy song – “give me the good news, yeah yeah yeah”. Davy’s long hair and smile encourage cheer and Leo’s bottle-bottom specs and grin bring enthusiasm and a ‘craic’. Other songs hymn standing by a girl in the chip shop or a dance hall DJ from years back in Ireland – this one induces a frenzy and a mass-participation synchronised dance. The Saw Doctors have a ‘leftovers’ album out and they feature a song from it –“I’m Never Going To Go On BeBo again” – a sad tale of being tracked down by a woman via yet another internet social networking site. Flags are unfurled in the audience for “The Green And Red Of Mayo”.

The sentiments are strong and love of country, place and people is run through like Blackpool through a stick of rock. This is a band so unconcerned with being cool that they are cool just at being themselves. The concert is an annual pre-Christmas round for the lads and is taken by the crowd as a party rather than a promo vehicle for the new album. People dress up and come along to dance and sing. It’s fun.

Nostalgia rides high and its companion, wistful sadness, buoyed up by daft, silly songs. “I Used To Love Her (a long long time ago” is ended with “I have fallen for another – she can make her own way home”! Meet Me On Clare Island or Stars Over Cloughanover are softly nostalgic and calm things down. Soca rhythms enter to accompany “I’ll Be On My Way” – a leave-taking of life, The Saw Doctors’ antidote to My Way. The bass player mostly lurks, playing careful rich notes. The keys double up as accordian as the need comes up. A cheeky wink accompanies:
“Bless Me Father For I Have Sinned
Big brown eyes and silky skin
Father, I couldn’t resist
You don’t know what you have missed”.

A six song encore ties up with the gloriously silly Hay Wrap and audience participation dance. The Saw Doctors are an institution, proving the link between country and The Ramones and showing more emotional freedom than a hundred heart-on-sleeve Emo bands.

Ross McGibbon