On the Saw Doctors at the House of Blues
The first thing I would like to say is that Davy Carton looks like a leprechaun, and Leo Moran, with his wild hair and glasses, looks like a mad scientist who has stumbled onto a stage and been handed a guitar. Together, those two, along with Kevin Duffy, Anthony Thistlethwaite, and Eímhín Craddock, are magic, I discovered at their show at the Boston House of Blues on Friday night. Alchemists, perhaps? Take their music, add a live crowd, and things turn into gold.
It was the Saw Doctors’ second stop on their spring US tour. It was, for me (in the words of a friend), the losing of my Saw Doctors concert virginity–and there will be no going back. This band calls up that sort of vaguely naughty talk, what with their songs “I Useta Love Her,” in which Davy sings of winking at a girl doing collections in church to let her knew he’d be seducing her in the future, or “That’s What She Said,” where the speaker of the lyrics tells of a bar pick-up begging “Would you please one more time?” at the same time his friends shout “No more o’ that–we don’t believe ya!” My first concert of the Docs, my first time at the House of Blues–and if I didn’t like these guys going in, I’d sure be smitten now.
One of the guys, Seamus from New Hampshire, told me ahead of time that I’d know him because he’d be the tall guy in the Saw Doctors shirt with the N17 signs. Of course, when I got there, he was sitting down, facing the bar…but a few seats over was a guy with a shirt that read, on the back, “Get That Wasp Off My Sandwich,” so I knew I’d found the right bunch. I sat with Pat and his friend Phil, and we talked school, concerts, Red Sox, Bruins, Saw Doctors, Saw Doctors, Saw Doctors. Pat, it turns out, owned “fifteen or maybe sixteen” concert t-shirts; but he’d lost track of how many concerts he’d attended. He had stories about all of them, though. Seamus gave us all N17 signs, because when that song came up in the concert, we were to hold them up: they always did that. After food and much Guinness, we made our way next door.
I had been told that the House of Blues packed people in. True that. Pat, Phil and I found a place to stand on the floor near the light and sound boards; we were up one step, which was good, because otherwise it would have been hard to see, let alone move or even breathe. The opening act, on at 8, was a guitar band from Chicago called AM Taxi; they were loud, and I don’t think I distinguished a single word of their lyrics (I did note, though, that the second song of their playlist was in 6/8 time, which made me appreciate whoever did their song-writing). Some other concert friends of Pat’s appeared, and we started taking bets on which song the Saw Doctors would open with. Pat thought “Takin’ the Train,” and I concurred…and once AM Taxi stopped making our ears bleed and left the stage to the headliners, we were proved right.
The Saw Doctors played straight through, for nearly two hours, no intermission, no break, nothing. 20 songs before they left the stage–only to come back for an encore of 6 or 7 or 8 more, depending on how you counted. The playlist included many songs from their 25-year catalogue, as well as plenty from their newest CD, The Further Adventures of the Saw Doctors. The packed house, most of whom were of an age with Pat and Phil and me, sang along with much verve (though not all that much tunefulness). Every classic song, from “Macness Parade” on, elicited much cheering and waving of hands;
at “N17” I saw that the signs had proliferated all over the club. “Clare Island” had Pat’s friend Deborah wondering aloud who was going to be first to take his or her clothes off (I didn’t see anyone, but it was dark). The newer songs, I noticed, elicited a less spirited response–not, I think, because the older ones are better, but more because the audience didn’t quite seem to have the newer lyrics down yet: they sang the refrains, but mumbled along on the verses. That was kind of interesting.
I was pleased that one of my favorites came up toward the end of the program: “About You Now.” Miranda Cosgrove (blech!) notwithstanding, this is a song that always makes me want to sing out, whether by this time I have lost my voice or not. I think, though, that the overall favorite of the fans had to be “Hay Wrap.” This is a song which, in my humble opinion, must be experienced live to be fully appreciated. It’s an audience participation song. When the Saw Doctors belted it out on stage, no one could help leaping up and down, despite the close quarters on the floor; and no one, at least in our immediate area, was still and silent when it came time to punch the air and shout Hay! Hay! in the simplistic but very rowdy refrain. It helped, too, that Kevin Duffy, who’d stuck to keyboard and accordion for the entire evening, took up a guitar for some mighty arpeggio playing; it helped again when, in the middle of “Hay Wrap,” the band segued into a favorite from the old Boston band The Cars, “Just What I Needed” and then came back to their own song without skipping a beat.
…And that’s the story of how I lost my Saw Doctors concert virginity. Despite the fact that I left the House of Blues near midnight with impaired hearing, sore feet, and no voice at all, it was a highly enjoyable experience. There is, in fact, no going back. Only forward, to the March 15th show at the Port City Music Hall in Portland, a Saw Doctors concert which I shall attend with my way cool sister and a pack of friends, none of whom has yet been seduced, as it were. I fully intend that I shall be closer to the front in Portland. I should like to take a page from my new pal Pat’s experience, and have the opportunity of speaking to Davy, Leo, Kevin, Anthony and Eímhín; it’s possible, Pat said, in the smaller venues. We shall see in ten more days how that works out.
“Red Cortina,” the a capella version, also went over well with the audience. It features Davy on the lead, Leo singing the bass line, and the others filling in various doo-wops and harmonies. However, when Eímhín came downstage from his drum kit, we all got a good view of his legs, as he was wearing shorts (in winter? is he nuts?). I don’t think I’ve seen a drummer in shorts since Stuart Copeland, at a Police concert when I was 15. Am I dating myself? In any case, as far as I can tell, Eímhín Craddock has the better pair of legs.
Can’t wait for Portland. I expect more alchemy.