Real McKenzies – Camden Underworld

By paul

The Real McKenzies
Thursday 22 January 2009
Underworld, Camden
Support: Mike Scott

Spending just two minutes in the company of Paul McKenzie goes a long way to summing up his faux-Celtic band: McKenzie is all about having fun. The Real McKenzies as a band embodies this feeling, a fact that often seems to be lost in translation when the band is brought up in conversation. On tonight?s performance this happy-go-lucky impression really starts to seep through.

The last time Punktastic caught tonight?s opener Mike Scott it was an abysmally dreary evening weather wise. Tonight it?s much the same which suits the former Phinius Gage man?s politically charged, socially conscious views on the world. Scott?s pessimistic stance couldn?t be further removed from the comedy and joy that is to follow. It?s pleasing then to see the crowd doesn?t completely shy away.

Scott?s set is made up of songs from last year?s Punktastic Recordings release ??At The Slaughterhouse? and his recent split CD with Flav Giorgini of Squirtgun fame. The focus is firmly on the political inadequacies of everyday life, but nestled amongst this gritty punk rock is the gem ?All I?ve Done Since I Was 21?, a charming take on years of playing in a band and it?s subsequently break-up.

Scott embarks on a trip to California in April, a clear indication that people are adapting to this whole solo thing. It?s a grainy acoustic punk commentary, and well worth a listen. (4/5)

Arriving on stage sweaty, tattooed, bare-chested and kilt-adorned, The Real McKenzies proceed to barrage the partisan audience with short, sharp bursts of bagpipe driven Celtic punk rock that concentrates on what appears to be every aspect of clich‚d Scotland: Robert Burns, Nessie, Greyfriars Bobby and Scotch Whisky are amongst those that get name-checked tonight. It?s the first sign that this band may not take everything all that serious.

Youthfully bouncing around the stage, it?s hard to imagine that the Vancouver outfit has been doing this since 1992, preceding both Flogging Molly and the Dropkick Murphys. With this knowledge though it?s not surprising to see how honed the performance is. Even the dreaded technical difficulties are mere brushed aside.

The UK leg of the band?s European tour takes in just London and three dates in Scotland. It?s testament to the fact that the band fits a niche in the market. There?s not too much call for sea shanties, accents and odes to the Golden Hind. You wouldn?t know this though from the audience, tightly packed-in against the front of the stage, a commotion of glee and beer-swilling, loving every minute.

For the enthusiasts a performance that weighs in somewhere around the 90 minute mark sates every desire imaginable, but for the casual observer it?s overlong, and repetitive. For every nugget like ?Droppin? Like Flies? there?s an instantly forgettable three minutes.

But here?s the thing: it?s not about the casual observer. The band is all about putting on a show for the devotees. These are the people that fuel the fire so to speak. So what of the performance? Clich‚d: yes. Tacky: a little. Punk: possibly not. An evening?s entertainment: most definitely. And isn?t that what showbiz is all about at the end of the night? (3/5)

Alex Hambleton