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Tramshed, Cardiff, Mon 17 Apr

Irish rock favourites The Saw Doctors returned to Cardiff for the first time since their gig in the Coal Exchange in 2012. Booked for the Tramshed late last year, the gig was rescheduled due to singer Davy Carton’s throat operation.

Renowned for their live performances, the band celebrated 30 years together this year thanks to their strong cult following; to be in the midst of this cult is surreal. Being Irish myself, I have grown up knowing who and what the Saw Doctors were, so I was more than impressed to see the venue packed to the rafters.

As stage time dawned, announced by a bouncer to those thronged outside taking in the sunny spring evening, the lights came down and The Saw Doctors got straight to it. With the crowd instantly bouncing around, clapping, and waving hands in the air, they opened up with a luxury selection of hits: Green And Red, Same Old Town and Tommy K. A heart-thumping drum solo led into a beautiful sax part, enlarging and enriching the folk sound; each song was met with rapturous applause and cheers worthy of a stadium rugby match.

The band then slowed things down with Red Cortina, guitarist Leo Moran declaring jauntily that they were having too much of a good time (“sure, a bit of misery will do us good”). A customary Brexit joke to follow – “it’s lovely to be all the way over here in Europe” – was met with friendly jeers.  Even after all these years, The Saw Doctors still seem like they are thoroughly enjoying themselves, a group of best mates having a jam session.

As the lights flash patriotically in green, white and gold, I Useta Lover (to this day the highest-selling number one in the Republic of Ireland) brings the atmosphere to euphoric levels. Each song tells a story variously rich in nostalgia, joy or melancholy which takes you on a strolling journey through the Emerald Isle. Each round of applause is graced with a very Irish “tank you” from the band, while for a change of pace we were asked to pretend we were at a Snoop Dogg gig, putting our “motherfucking hands in the air” and chanting their names.

Following megahit N17, a wormhole back to their 90s heyday, The Saw Doctors left with a polite nod. The obligatory “one more tune” chanted prompted the band to bounce back onstage for a run through legendary Doctors hit Hay Wrap. Already a paid-up fan or not, I dare you to attend one of their gigs and not leave with a smile on your face and a song in your heart.


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