Review and photos by Tony BonyataPositioned nicely with the timing of St. Patrick's Day, the Los Angeles-based band Flogging Molly rolled into Chicago's House of Blues for the first of two-sold out shows last Tuesday evening.
Flogging Molly are one of the few bastard children of The Pogues, the influential band that originally mixed the sounds of traditional Irish music with the volatile attitude of late '70s English punk rock. It's a combination that, on paper, looks like a cut-and-dry case of deformity through inbreeding. But as The Pogues proved, it was a creative, energetic sound that not only introduced many young punks to an age-old music, but also found elders uncontrollably pogoing - trick knees and all, to this highly spirited music.
When The Pogues called it quits in the mid '90s, new bands carrying the trad-Irish / U.K. punk torch, such as Dropkick Murphys, The Tossers, Lancaster County Prison and Flogging Molly, began to spring up quicker than you could say 'potato famine.'
In support of their forth full-length album, entitled Within A Mile Of Home, Flogging Molly's seven-piece band (complete with traditional instrumentation such as banjo, mandolin, accordion, fiddle and penny whistle, and grounded by electric guitars and full drum kit) tore through newer high-energy numbers such as "The Light of a Fading Star," "Screaming at The Wailing Wall," The Seven Deadly Sins" and "Tobacco Road," featuring a positively invigorating fiddle from Bridget Regan.
The leader and central focus of the band was Dublin-born singer / guitarist Dave King, who (in true punk rock form) taunted and belittled the Chicago audience with a stiff middle finger, cries of "I love New York!," and jabs at the Chicago Bears' style of football as a sport for sissies compared to Irish soccer. While all of this obviously agitated the mob, as soon as the band reeled into another safety-pinned jig all was lovingly forgiving, or, more accurately, forgotten through inebriation.
Some of the more aggressively received numbers were the accordion and tin whistle driven "Rebels of the Sacred Heart" and the punk anthem "Drunken Lullabies." While guitarist Dennis Casey's choppy rock leads were admirable on numbers such as "The Light of a Fading Star" and "Black Friday" (where King also broke into a little impromptu version of The Rolling Stones' "Shattered" as he rooster-strutted across the stage in Jagger-esque fashion), the young audience instead responded more feverishly toward the sounds emulating from the lively fiddle, banjo and accordion than that of the rock solos and heavier arrangements.
In homage to the late Johnny Cash, King dedicated "Folsom Prison Blues" to the Man In Black. Despite missing the point of the original with a faster tempo and too much bravado, hearing this great song in any incarnation was still a welcome addition.
The power that Flogging Molly possessed on stage could not be denied after witnessing the crowd (who proved to be half of the evening's entertainment) going berserk over the band's music. There were two things that fueled this motley crew - an overabundance of Guinness Stout (who were sponsoring the show) and the apparent need to thrash about to the vigorous music - turning the entire floor of the venue into a throbbing moshpit of flailing limbs hoisting pints and sweat-soaked bodysurfers alike. And somehow this combination of Irish music and drink saw men hugging men, good-time girls swaying and swaggering in time and young spiked-hair punks conversing with frat boys and even a couple of elderly chaps in wool pullovers. Certainly something neither The Clancy Brothers nor The Clash could've ever pulled off.
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