It’s been a long, long time since the Saw Doctors have played Madison. So long that that they couldn’t even remember the name of the place they played last. “Fitchburg Days!” someone in the crowd shouted out. They looked slightly confused by that, I don’t blame them, while it is nearby, technically Fitchburg Days isn’t Madison, it’s Fitchburg. Since we were right up front, Marcus got guitarist/vocalist Leo Moran’s attention and told him this was the third time they had played and the first was at Luther’s Blues. He looked relieved at that information, as if that cleared everything up, and he thanked Marcus. They’ve been a band much longer than that (1986 according to Wikipedia), so it seems funny that I’ve known of them as long as they’ve been playing Madison.
It’s also kind of funny that not much has changed since then. That was ten years ago or so, but you’d never know it by the set list. I know they’ve had new records since then, and I’m sure they played a few new songs, but the bulk of the set was favorites that I’ve heard them play every time I’ve seen them. The sweet “Clare Island,” the loyal “Green and Red of Mayo,” the sing along “Hay Wrap,” the dance-along “Tommy K” and of course the infectious travelogue “N-17” (Ireland’s equivalent of the Interstate, though they are all more like highways). This was the first time I had seen them since we’d lucked into a show while we were in Galway, seven or eight years ago. And while it was awesome to see them in their hometown then, this was just as good, and the fans just as enthusiastic.
While the set list hasn’t changed much, a few other things had. In the past, it seemed as though Leo and Davy split the lead vocals. Tonight though, it was definitely weighted in Davy Carton’s favor. He had lost the ridiculous long hair he was sporting the last time I saw him, though he was wearing a pair of skinny jeans, making him the oldest dude I’d seen wearing them. He wore them surprisingly well though, and the effect was more odd than icky. This left Leo playing guitar, and he did that better than I remembered, I think he’s been practicing.
The band has always been centered on those two, and whether the musicians around them change from time to time I actually have no idea, though I would have to guess yes. What I do know is that the cute young drummer was new. It sounded like they were calling him “rookie” but on further review I’ve decided his name is probably Ricky. In a band of average looking dudes, he was the one I was watching, and I don’t think I was the only one. You could almost hear every heart in the room break when they brought him to the front of the stage and handed him a guitar for a surprisingly good version of Chris Isaak’s “Wicked Game.” Heck, that alone would have been worth venturing out on a Sunday night for, but the Saw Doctors are a reliably fun, good-time band and tonight was no exception.
Sean Michael Dargan
The Saw Doctors