On the Saw Doctors, Take 2: Port City Music Hall
Take two, eleven days later. I now considered myself a novice Saw Doctors concert attendee, rather than a concert virgin. But on this particular night, I had a mission: to escort a pack of newbies into the Port City Music Hall, where they could expect to be highly entertained, if nothing else. For this show, I bought my way cool sister Susan a ticket; my friend Lisa came and brought her own sister Susan (I had given Lisa and my sister copies of
The Further Adventures of the Saw Doctors for Christmas–a pretty darned good recruitment tool, if you ask me). Though I had received no response when I had tossed out a question about other attendees on the Saw Doctors forum, I still managed to find people I knew. The poet and awesome guy Michael Macklin, for example: I hadn’t even known he was a fan, but I should have. And imagine my surprise when, as I was talking to Michael before the show, I felt a tap on my shoulder–and there was my wonderful friend and music mentor, the writer Tommy Shea (Tommy is the fan who turned me on to the Saw Doctors, of course, but–he drove to Portland from central Massachusetts for the show, and then on top of that, he handed me another CD to listen to. What a guy!)
Once again, AM Taxi opened the evening, but we stayed to the back of the hall, and, though I still had trouble distinguishing words, the band from Chicago began to grow on me. However, I had promised myself last time that I’d get to the front for the main attraction if there was any possible way–and with Port City Music Hall being a considerably smaller venue than the absolute barn of the House of Blues (and warmer, too), it was not that difficult. I found a spot nearly up to the tape in front of the stage…but I lost Susie and Lisa somewhere back along the side…Michael informed us that he fully intended to stay to the back on the couch…and occasionally I could see Tommy over in the crowd, surrounded by all the people he seemed to know from somewhere. My vantage point was immeasurably better than it had been in Boston; of course I was almost directly below an enormous speaker set-up, which may have irreparably damaged my hearing, but what a sacrifice!
The Saw Doctors could not fail to please. There’s something incredibly endearing about a bunch of guys who seem to be taking such joy, either with each other and their performance, or with us, the audience: I’ve never seen such grinning. I don’t think Anthony Thistlethwaite stopped smiling once during the two-hour set. Once again, they played straight through, without a break–twenty songs, give or take, and then the encore of another several. I had warned Susie: it’s an interactive concert. When the Docs play “Tommy K” everyone mimes the letter K, which leads to a bit of accidental kicking in the packed house (good thing the audience seems to be a good-natured lot). “Hay Wrap,” which was included in the encore, and which I found I was looking forward to enormously (it’s never been one of my favorites on the CD, but the concert version is awesome), involves punching the air enthusiastically, and a bit of fairly high leaping. When I explained this, Susie got that look she gets and
informed me that she was not the Village People–which apparently amused Lisa a great deal. Well, I’m not either. But I’ve found I do get into the Saw Doctors live, and I’ll be Tommy K, and I’ll leap up and down, because, people, this is serious fun.
Once again the set list was fairly heavily laden with songs from The Further Adventures… but the people surrounding me in Portland seemed to know the songs better than the Boston crowd had. Still, the old favorites were the ones that had people dancing and roaring out the words. “Macness Parade”? Surely couldn’t be leaving that one out. And the a capella version of Red Cortina…and “Why Do I Always Want You” and “That’s What She Said” (We don’t believe ya!) and “Never Mind the Strangers”…and the less raucous but no less beloved “Green and Red of Mayo” with the magnificent instrumentals in the middle. I missed some of the pieces from Boston–“About You Now” was absent last night, though there were other songs included that weren’t played at the other concert. One of the glorious things about the live shows is that the Saw Doctors never seem to play the same set list twice. The shows are, in that respect, unpredictable: what’s next?
At some point near the end of the concert, a woman with a Guinness tried to elbow me out of my spot: but I’d held on for too long, and did not give it up, despite her repeated attempts to displace me. A short while later Lisa appeared at my side and grabbed my arm, but I was leaping about wildly by that time, so she gave up, too. At the end of the encore, when the Docs segued into “Hey, Jude,” one by one abandoning their instruments to come forward on the stage, we in the audience were exhausted, exhilarated, and for the most part just content to sway back and forth in the dark and sing along. They wear you out, these exuberant guys all the way from Tuam. But if you’re like me–and Tommy Shea–you just come back again for another go round.
This is how awesome Tommy is. Did you get to meet Leo in Boston? he asked when we first talked before the show. Well, no. Look for me after. Maybe we can go back. I found Tommy when the crowd dispersed, and he was on a mission. He had another CD to deliver: Bob Dylan, I think. He gave it to
Anthony Thistlethwaite, who was clearing up some stuff on stage, and called me over to introduce me: the newest fan, he called me. Anthony smiled at that–he was still smiling. Then he said he’d tell Leo Tommy was there. Sure enough, after a while, Leo Moran came out to talk to Tommy, who promptly introduced me, and told Leo I wrote about the Docs in my blog. I have you now, Leo said. And Tommy took a picture.
I’m no longer a concert virgin. I believe I’m even beyond a novice: that’s Susie and Lisa now. I’ll be back, because I’m addicted. Eventually, I might even be an expert, like my new friend Pat from the Boston show. Or like Tommy Shea.