The Boston Phoenix
August 24 - 31, 2000

[Music Reviews]

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The Saw Doctors: Same Oul' Band?

It may be a long way to Tipperary, but it's even longer from the Galway cathedral town of Tuam to the FleetBoston Pavilion. The Saw Doctors formed up in 1987, and their brand of Irish throwback pop has made them minor royalty in Ireland and England and a cult phenomenon in America. They've been bringing their infectious tunes and back-to-basics lyrics (girls, cars, friendship, girls) to the Roxy for some years now; a week ago Friday they moved up to the FleetBoston Pavilion, on a night when their "Oh God, Will It Ever Stop Raining" seemed all too appropriate.

Band manager Ollie Jennings was apprehensive as to how the lads would do at a all-seater venue, but from the moment they took the stage, it was all-standing, with the crowd testing the patience of event security by playing musical chairs with the front-section seats. The sea of bottle-green "All the Way from Tuam" T-shirts (the one with the capper from "Hay Wrap," "Get that wasp off my sandwich," on the back) was speckled with the occasional maroon County Galway Gaelic-football/hurling jersey. The two most enthusiastic representatives of the latter group had, alas, started imbibing too early and fell victim to security before 10 minutes were gone.

Up on stage the band went through their usual generous set, 32 loud numbers in a little under two and a half hours, with some 10 new songs scattered among old favorites from If This Is Rock and Roll I Want My Old Job Back, All the Way from Tuam, Same Oul' Town, and Songs from Sun Street. The standard quartet -- Leo Moran and Davy Carton on guitar, Pearse Doherty on bass, John Donnelly at the drum kit -- was abetted by Derek Murray on keyboards and the box, former Waterboy Anto Thistlethwaite on sax, and Danny Healy on trumpet. Taking no chances, they kicked off the evening with "N17" (the motorway between Tuam and Galway), letting the crowd take over for every refrain of "Stone walls and the grass is green," then followed with the signature bass licks of "To Win Just Once" (the unofficial themesong of Ireland's World Cup side) and "Exhilarating Sadness."

The band's first hit, "I Useta Lover," was absent but the other crowdpleasers were there: "Tommy K." (with audience choreography that was, we were promised, "easier than the `YMCA' "), "Caitríona Tells Lies," "Why Do I Always Want You," "Wake Up Sleeping" (not helped by the harmonic changes), "Clare Island," "Share the Darkness" (with a trumpet break subbing for the Gaelic refrain), "Red Cortina," "That's What She Said," "Hay Wrap." And if the reaction to "Joyce Country Céilí Band" was any evidence, Avalon might think about scheduling céilí nights. No complaints from the crowd, but I missed the quirks of "Presentation Boarder" and "Pied Piper" and "F.C.A." and the affecting sentiments of "I Hope You Meet Again" and "Same Oul' Town." And just as there wasn't anything on Songs from Sun Street that had me hitting the repeat button, so the bland, generic new material had me thinking how I useta lovem, from "Chips" ("A big bag o' chips and a burger to go") to "This Is Me" ("This is me being me/That's just the way I am"). What verbal bite there was ("Bless Me Father," from the World of Good EP) got buried by the sound system. Not that I don't wish the band a world of good, but maybe it's time to hop on that N17 and recharge the batteries back in Tuam.

-- Jeffrey Gant
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