Review: Flogging Molly

(Above: “Drunken Lullabies.”)

By Joel Francis
The Kansas City Star

It didn’t take much for Flogging Molly to transform Fat Tuesday into St. Patrick’s Day.

The Celtic punk band performed a blazing 90-min. set for a sold-out Uptown Theater crowd Tuesday night. The evening opened at full throttle with “Man With No Country,” a joyous jangle of guitars, violin, banjo and drums.

“The Likes of You Again” started acoustically before exploding into a high-octane jig and reel. It’s a trick Flogging Molly has perfected: take an Irish melody, crank the performance to 11 and drop in an anthemic chorus. Although this leaves the songs sounding similar, there’s enough twiddling with the dynamics that they never get old.

The banjo intro to “Drunken Lullabies” had everyone stomping so hard the balcony was shaking. When the full band finally entered, the crowd ignited in a fury of singing, clapping, dancing and moshing. It was the band’s biggest response of the night, although they came close a couple other times.

After “Lullabies” it was impossible to go any higher, so the band dialed it down with a three-song acoustic set. “The Son Never Shines (On Closed Doors)” was dedicated to singer Dave King’s 87-year-old Irish mother. Dressed with a banjo melody and nifty slide guitar solo, the ode to a home that isn’t visited frequently enough was just as affecting as the full-bore material.

The 90-minute set was split evenly between the band’s first two and most recent studio albums. Early in the set, King promised they would perform several more obscure songs, like “The Worst Day Since Yesteday,” but they didn’t seem to stump anyone signing along.

With the house lights up, the crowd launched into the chorus of “Rebels of the Sacred Heart” after the opening chord. If that song felt like a soccer anthem, the next number, “If I Ever Leave This World Alive,” transformed the Uptown into an Irish pub. With cups hoisted and lyrics belted it was the second biggest response of the night.

The band stood six abreast across the front of the stage, with the drummer on risers behind. Acknowledging their previous shows at the Beaumont Club and growing audience, King noted they were “a long way from the old mechanical bull days.”

The Los Angeles-based Aggrolites set the bar high with their amazing 45-minute opening set. The quintet’s “dirty reggae” sounded like Kingston via Aztlan, or Los Lobos paying tribute to the Specials, sans horns. The band’s not-so-secret weapon was organist Roger Rivas, who propelled the most numbers with his mighty B3. Rarely pausing between songs, the band kept the energy high and the crowd moving. They closed with an optimistic, doubletime cover of the Beatles’ “Don’t Let Me Down” that found two members of Flogging Molly onstage contributing backing vocals onstage.

Setlist: Man With No Country/The Likes of You Again/Requiem for a Dying Song/Selfish Man/The Worst Day Since Yesterday/You Won’t Make a Fool Out of Me/(No More) Paddy’s Lament/Drunken Lullabies/Us of Lesser Gods/The Son Never Shines (On Closed Doors)/Float/Tobacco Island/The Kilburn High Road/Rebels of the Sacred Heart/If I Ever Leave This World Alive/The Lightning Storm/What’s Left of the Flag/Seven Deadly Sins/The Story So Far//encore//Grace of God Go I/Devil’s Dance Floor/Salty Dog