Sunday, 2 July 2017

Gig Review: Flogging Molly at the Forum, Kentish Town 29/06/17 (by Emma Prew)

I am a huge fan of Celtic-influenced folk punk music – banjo, mandolin, accordion, fiddle, whistle etc. – and Flogging Molly have got to be one of the biggest and best bands within that genre. I recently reviewed their sixth album Life Is Good and mentioned in that post that Colin had never seen Flogging Molly before and I had only seen them as support for Frank Turner (They were great but the crowd didn’t get it, stupid FT fans.) So, it goes without saying that when the band announced a UK tour we would be there.

As seems to be the way with the larger corporate music venues (that we try to avoid as much as possible but some punk bands are actually pretty popular: see Descendents and Me First And The Gimme Gimmes), we only managed to find out who the supports for Flogging Molly were the day before. One was London-based ska band Buster Shuffle who Colin knew of but had never seen live and the other was an American band called The Attack who we knew nothing about. Thankfully both support bands turned out to be great!

First up were The Attack, a straight-up street punk four-piece from Orlando, Florida. With the band’s great enthusiasm, particularly for playing in London for the first time, and their accessible (well, if you like punk music) sound, it didn’t take long for us to get into their set. They primarily played songs from their most recent album, On Condition, but also threw in a cover of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s Bad Moon Rising – not a song I ever expected to hear with a punk twist! A great start to the evening.

After the punk rock fun times with The Attack, we were treated to a complete change of genres with some classic-sounding ska. It can be a bit risky sometimes mixing bands of such different sounds into one line-up, especially when you can expect that most of the audience won’t know the supports, but on this occasion it worked – for us at least! I’m pretty used to seeing ska punk bands now (and I love them) but Buster Shuffle are definitely more traditional ska with keyboard in place of a horns section – think The Specials – and that was actually incredibly refreshing to hear. Frontman, Jet, was ridiculously enthusiastic, playing his keyboard with his foot at times and giving the crowd plenty of thumbs up. The band certainly wasted no time in getting the crowd dancing. The band’s set consisted of 6 or 7 great original songs as well as not one, not two, but three excellent cover songs – You Never Can Tell by Chuck Berry, Out Of Space by The Prodigy and Monkey Man by Toots And The Maytals. What a variety! I’d definitely recommend seeing Buster Shuffle live and hopefully we’ll see them again ourselves sometime soon.

We had street punk and we had ska, but what we were all dying to hear now was the best band in Celtic punk (Seriously, they’re way better than The Pogues. Shane MacGowan who?) – Flogging Molly! After chatting with our friend Jack and new friend Josh, who found us after Buster Shuffle, and after Colin had received a much sought after Against Me! record from Jack, we were ready for the headlining act. Some bands choose classic 70s/80s songs or film themes to be played immediately before they go on stage, Flogging Molly however chose one of their own songs to take to the stage to – the intro track to Life Is Good. It was a little odd hearing a recording of the band you’re about to see and we half expected them to actually be playing it themselves off stage but hey, they’re Flogging Molly so they can do what they like. I’m not usually one for fancy lighting effects but the inclusion of green, white and orange lights over the Flogging Molly banner to create an Irish flag was pretty darn cool – and probably not all that fancy really anyway.

On with the music! You might have expected that on the ‘Life Is Good Tour’ Flogging Molly would play a large majority of new songs in their set but then the band also knows that that’s not always necessarily what Flogging Molly fans want to hear. They did play a couple of songs from the latest album and I can’t deny that they sounded great but it was the classic tracks from albums such as Swagger and Drunken Lullabies that were most enthusiastically received by the crowd. Drunken Lullabies itself, arguably their biggest ‘hit’ was thrown into their set early on which was a bit of a surprise. With so many other great songs in their repertoire, this was no bad move. Tracks such as Swagger, Selfish Man, Requiem For A Dying Song, Float and Devil’s Dance Floor, to name but a few, were included in their setlist and allowed each member of the band to shine whether it be on the banjo, accordion, fiddle or whistle (or any of the other instruments in the band!). Towards the end of Flogging Molly’s set, frontman Dave began talking about how his voice was suffering after being on tour with Frank Turner. I should have seen it coming really when the band were joined on stage by Mr Turner himself for a rousing rendition of the heart-wrenching If I Ever Leave This World Alive. To be honest, Frank didn’t really add much to the song – his mic didn’t seem very loud – but it’s entertaining to see him running about the stage, as Dave put it, like Bruce Dickinson from Iron Maiden. He left the stage leaving Flogging Molly to power through to the end of their set. I was a little disappointed that they hadn’t played my favourite (miles above the rest) song from the new album but I wasn’t disappointed for long as that ended up being the first song of their encore! Crushed (Hostile Nations) is a song that begins slowly but builds into a full blown rock anthem and it was absolutely brilliant live. I was very happy by this point but it wasn’t over until Flogging Molly encouraged the crowd to have one last dance to Salty Dog. This was topped off by Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life (from Monty Python) playing out as we all vacated The Forum, helping to fully cement the smiles on our faces – as well as getting stuck in our heads all the way home…

We knew that Flogging Molly would put on a great show but I don’t think either of us had expected it to be that good. Flogging Molly were incredible and that was without a doubt one of my favourite gigs of the year so far – certainly my favourite of the larger venue shows I’ve been to.

This gig review was written by Emma Prew.