DAVE KING doesn’t care what you think, and it might just be the best thing about him.
His band, well-travelled Celtic punks Flogging Molly, sit halfway between a session and a riot; a chaotic, unapologetic, ramshackle fusion of Irish trad and punk rock angst.
Based out of California (and largely made up of Americans) – but led by King, who was raised in long-fallen Dublin 4 tenement Beggar’s Bush – Flogging Molly have made a career out of morphing trad stylings into songs about drink and national pride, love and hopelessness. Dublin is a spiritual home, a loose party at the end of a summer-long European tour.
King’s trademark is a husky, snarling yet somehow warm voice, a quick turn of phrase and cutting lyrics. Fuelled by on-stage cans of Guinness, he wiggles with his guitar, gurning between vocals and throwing playful but pointed jabs, like the dedication of ‘Selfish Man’ to his brother, and a quip about so many of his mates coming down that nobody’s actually paid to be in a packed Olympia.
The highs are in the raucous choruses; ‘What’s Left of the Flag’ is a glorious embittered ode to Irish identity, flowing into a manic ‘Rebels of the Sacred Heart’ and melodic slowed-down celebration of the booze, ‘Drunken Lullabies’.
Then there are the lesser-known highs. They come in nods to debut ‘Swagger’ and early days in LA pubs, or in ‘Saints and Sinners’, a track that plays with religious themes but is ultimately about losing yourself in a fully-lived, fully-loved life.
Down the front, where 500 punks haven’t stopped leaping in 90 minutes, they can do no wrong. Celtic punk doesn’t always sit well with trad purists, but there’s no better place to soak up something like this than an Olympia heaving with roaring, half-cut punk fans lobbing every word back at the stage.
King is like Glen Hansard, except far more fun, slightly worse for wear, and with everything The Clash ever made eating at him from inside his veins. 2017 Flogging Molly can happily lay claim to Green Day’s famous playful-punk quote: they very much put the fun in dysfunctional.