Taking to the stage under a tricolour of green, white and gold lights, The Mary Wallopers could hardly be accused of subtlety when it comes to their roots. Dundalk‘s most raucous exports, the Wallopers come barrelling into Cardiff on a wave of hugely positive reviews for their latest album, Irish Rock N Roll (there’s that aversion to subtlety, again) and well-oiled after months on the road.
Kicking the evening off are Falkirk’s Brògeal, who bound onto the Tramshed’s stage with an infectious, youthful enthusiasm that never relents throughout their set. With wraparound sunglasses on, bagsful of great tunes and a confidence that belies their age, their upbeat folk-rock is an immediate hit.
“Here’s a song about the Queen of England,” is, you’d have to say, a pretty strong opening gambit from an Irish band playing in Wales. The song in question, Bold O’Donahue, is, needless to say, not a glowing endorsement of her majesty’s finer qualities. The Mary Wallopers profess themselves delighted to be among fellow Celts and out of “smelly England” but to reduce their set to such twinkle-eyed jabs at the neighbours would be to do a disservice to a painstakingly well-balanced collection of tunes which have the power to have the audience howling with laughter one minute and irate with the state of the world the next.
The fantastic Love Will Never Conquer Me is dedicated to a friend from home in the crowd who “used to like holding hands and kissing the girlies before he gave it up to spend his nights with 10 or 12 pints”. By contrast, the likes of their take on The Dubliners’ Building Up And Tearing England Down, or a powerful song called Do Me Justice (sung in sean-nós style by Andrew Hendy), demonstrate both the range of influences that the band blend into their music and a well-honed ability to take their audience on a journey.
It’s not all craic and spilled beer with The Mary Wallopers… but, in fairness, it mostly is, and the closing trio of Eileen Óg, Cod Liver Oil And The Orange Juice and Frost Is All Over are all howled back by a crowd that, for a couple of hours, have completely forgotten that a cold, wet Sunday night in Grangetown awaits the other side of the doors.
The Mary Wallopers + Brògeal, Tramshed, Cardiff, Sun 12 Nov
words HUGH RUSSELL photos JAMIE CHAPMAN