The Saw Doctors may hail from the west of Ireland but they are certainly no strangers to the Jersey Shore. The group has become something of a fixture at Asbury Park’s legendary Stone Pony in recent years and the quintet seemed very much at home kicking off St. Patrick’s Day weekend Thursday night in front of an adoring crowd just a stone’s throw from the “Irish Riviera.”

Outside, fans scurried from their cars to the escape the chilly, spitting rain and gusty winds befitting the arrival of a band from Connacht. Inside many were clad in Irish rugby shirts in anticipation of the weekend’s massive clash with rival England, also well represented was the maroon and white of Galway United. A sign of The Saw Doctor’s universal appeal and popularity in this part of the country is the range in ages of the people who attend their shows, which truly spanned from 18 to 80.

The band took to the stage around 9:00 with the crowd greeting them more like old friends than international rock stars. Lead singers/guitarists Davy Carton and Leo Moran, the latter looking like he borrowed his outfit from the set of an Austin Powers movie, traded vocals on familiar Saw Doctors classics like “What a Day,” “Green and Red of Mayo,” and “I Useta Lover” with an ease that highlighted the strengths of the road-tested band. A welcome shot of energy was provided by 21 year-old drummer and newest Doctor, Rickie O’Neil, who often stole the show from his more seasoned band mates. New additions to the set list included “Michael D. Rocking in the Dail” a tribute to recently elected President of Ireland and former Galway TD, Michael D. Higgins, as well as the band’s most recent success, a cover of Petula Clark’s “Downtown,” which got the Asbury crowd to the dance floor, especially the baby-boomers in attendance.

For me at least, the highlight of any Saw Doctors gig is their 1989 hit “N17.” The song perfectly captures the heartache of leaving everything and everyone that you have known, and once again has particular resonance today as the youth of Ireland leave in droves as a result of the staggering collapse of the Republic’s economy.

There are few certainties in life but knowing that the Saw Doctors will put on a great show is one of them. They know their audience and their audience certainly knows them. For the few hundred who gathered in Asbury Park Thursday night the Doctors delivered yet again and you can bet they’ll be back soon.

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