While some bands seem to tow along with them the caveat “Oh, you have to see them live to get what they’re really about”, Flogging Molly have never had this problem. The Irish punk septet seemed to arrive fully formed on their 2000 studio debut Swagger, and each of their albums effectively captures the energy of their mostly fast and raucous material. But with four albums and a decade of touring under their belts, a proper document of their live show seems like a pretty good idea at this juncture.
Flogging Molly and their longtime label, Side One Dummy, have put together a very nice three-disc package of the band’s show from September 12, 2009 at Los Angeles’ intimate (for an outdoor amphitheater) Greek Theatre. The two CDs and one DVD are exactly the same as far as the performance goes. All of frontman Dave King’s self-deprecating, sometimes inane stage banter is left on the audio discs, and the mixing is impeccable in both formats. Each instrument is clearly audible and the vocals are just a touch higher in the mix than the instruments. The liner notes include 12 pages of sharp full-color photos and the HD-shot video looks crystal clear on the screen, even though it’s presented on a standard DVD and not Blu-Ray.
The show itself finds the band running through 22 songs from throughout their career. Anyone who has been to a Flogging Molly show since 2008’s Float was released will recognize the basic setlist. As good as this concert is, and it’s a very, very good concert, the band didn’t pull out any real surprises or rarities for the show. On the plus side, though, the band seems to have a keen sense of which songs are its best live tracks, so there are no obvious omissions from the set. The concert begins with the quiet introduction of “The Likes of You Again”, which quickly bursts into the full-speed Celtic-tinged punk the band is known for. It’s followed by the equally high-energy “Swagger”, “Reqiuem for a Dying Song”, “Man With No Country”, and “Every Dog Has its Day” before the band finally slows it down for “These Exiled Years.”
After a couple more fast songs, King announces that the band is going to do something they’ve never done before in California; play a “mini-acoustic set”. However, considering the largely acoustic instrumentation of the group, this is hardly a special occasion. It consists of lead guitarist Dennis Casey strapping on a 12-string acoustic guitar and banjo/mandolin player Bob Schmidt sitting down on a stool. That’s it. It does, however, give the band a chance to group some of its slower material together. “Us of Lesser Gods” is presented as a big singalong, and though the chorus is not particularly catchy, the crowd does its best. “The Son Never Shines (On Closed Doors)” gets its usual introduction from King, who talks about how the song is about his mother and how he doesn’t get back to Ireland enough. The highlight of this section of the show, though, is the title track from Float, with its maritime metaphors of trying to stay above water in the current economic climate.
The second half of the show features more barnburners. It starts with “Tobacco Island”, the band’s song about Oliver Cromwell and all the Irish people he sent to Barbados as slaves. They also run through “Devil’s Dance Floor” and “Salty Dog”, two of the highlights from Swagger. The main show finishes up with “What’s Left of the Flag”, possibly the best track in Flogging Molly’s considerable arsenal. King seems bemused when the band returns for an encore to find that the audience has been doing the “O-lé olé olé olé!” chant. The set finishes up with another rousing number, “The Seven Deadly Sins”, and the band bids the enthusiastic crowd a good night.
Like everything Flogging Molly seems to do, this live set is sturdy and reliable but takes few risks. The camera work is solid, often edited in time to changes in the music but not to the point of annoyance. The DVD extras include a compilation of the band’s music videos and an interview with accordion player Matt Hensley and bassist Nate Maxwell. Everything about the whole package is high-quality and well put-together.