Flogging Molly fans can be forgiven tonight for stepping foot inside Glasgow's Garage with some trepidation.
While any one of their hundred (or so it feels) visits to the city since 1997 have sent fans bouncing through venue doors with giddiness in their step – excitement at jigging along to another killer show by the boisterous Celtic punks – tonight’s trip comes on the back of their worst album to date, this year’s ‘Speed of Darkness’.
Over-produced and stripping away much of what we love about LA’s finest Irishmen, it left many fans asking if they were trying to do “a Green Day”.
Were the rockers knocking at chart doors after years of underground credibility? On single ‘Don’t Shut ‘Em Down’, the accent of our playful hero – frontman Dave King – was almost unrecognisable from the Dublin boy of previous records.
To the sharp-eared listener though, those fun punk-rock beasts were still dying to burst through, lurking somewhere beneath that oh-so-clean mix. As we get our tickets torn and head for the bar, that thought gives us hope.
Frantic opener ‘The Likes of You Again’ is like something from the heart of Tripoli, as bodies are sent in all directions and the crowd at once forgets any concerns, lost amidst that familiar compulsion to throw the horns, impersonate Michael Flatley, punch the nearest mate or get lost in whatever nonsense the Irish-American madmen inspire in you.
Dressed in a suit that gets more and more casual as the night goes on, like a drunken uncle at a wedding stopping just short of wearing the tie round his forehead, King whips Glasgow into a gibbering, shaking, bouncing wreck.
Even the new songs – ‘Revolution’, ‘Saints & Sinners’, ‘Oliver Boys’ – go down better than the Guinness that Dave King shares out “like fish and loaves”.
Surely even the most fussy of fans can’t grumble with the brilliance of tonight’s setlist: ‘The Worst Day Since Yesterday’, ‘Selfish Man’, the sensational, anthemic ‘Drunken Lullabies’, rabble-rousing ‘Rebels of the Sacred Heart’ and ‘Salty Dog’.
‘Devil’s Dance Floor’, written back in their mid-90s days of flogging Molly Malone’s bar of Los Angeles to death with their many formative appearances, still gets just as much blood pumping as it did on first listen, more than a decade ago. “Swing a little more, a little more next to me,” as much a command to the sweating, heaving crowd as it is the catchiest fiddle-infused chorus you’ll ever hear.
‘What’s Left Of The Flag’ is arguably their best song, encapsulating everything we love: the melancholy plateau giving way to raucous bedlam, all manner of gorgeous, chaotic strings and accordion blasted into the mix, Dave on finest, fist-pumping form and electric guitars driving us at 100mph into a riot that would shame Tottenham, and as a closer tonight it seals what has been an unforgettable middle finger to the doubters.
Of course, only a mug truly believes this is the end, and before long we are treated to supersonic blasts of ‘Float’ and the frenzied ‘Seven Deadly Sins’, part-pirate anthem and part-rebel song.
Setting sail for England, the good ship Molly is ready to throw anchor at Reading & Leeds and lay waste to the festival sites, and as Glasgow’s battered, punch-drunk hordes will tell anyone who will listen as they spill out of the Garage, our southern neighbours are in for a treat.