Flogging Molly in Vegas on the eve of St. Patrick’s Day? Yes, please!

For the last 20 years (except during COVID lockdown), I have spent St. Patrick’s Day in Las Vegas celebrating at one of the best pubs around, The Nine Fine Irishmen at the NY NY Hotel and Casino. Typically, my group of friends and I gather a day early to celebrate St. Darryl’s Day (the unofficial patron saint of Las Vegas’ lost souls), which falls on 3/16. But this year we got an extra special treat for St. Darryl’s Day; Flogging Molly played an insane show at the Chelsea Ballroom at the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas hotel and casino!

Is there are better band to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with than Flogging Molly? Don’t bother answering. That was rhetorical.

I have had the absolute pleasure of seeing Flogging Molly over 10 times now, and this was my second time covering their show. Man, what a fun band to photograph, and even more fun to rock out with. Here is what you can expect at a Flogging Molly show: From the moment they walk out until the closing of the show with Always Look on the Bright Side of Life, you are getting 100% maximum energy from the seven members of the band. They are constantly in motion, constantly performing, and never stop interacting with the fans. You get songs that stretch their entire history, from the classics to the newest tunes. Every song brings excitement, uproarious cheers, and that certain je ne sais quoi that makes it such a great show.

The near capacity crowd was primed and ready for a killer set from Flogging Molly having just rocked out with Skinny Lister and the awesome punk band, Anti-Flag. Unfortunately, I was only able to cover Flogging Molly’s set, or I would have given you awesome pictures and stories from those two bands. From what friends at the show said, both bands were absolutely fantastic. I have had the pleasure of seeing both bands on a couple of occasions in the past and can certainly back up the praise that my friends and others in the crowd gave both opening acts. Skinny Lister is a folk punk band and brings a mixed style that few in the punk scene bring. They are a powerhouse with a touch of emotion and feeling thrown in the music. Anti-Flag is a straight up high energy punk band, full stop. They play a fast, melodic, “anthemic, and a visceral style of punk” that definitely gets the crowd pumped up and the circle pit moving at top speed. They were both the perfect openers for the Irish folk punk sound of Flogging Molly. I highly recommend going to see both bands when you can.

Prior to entering the building, I stopped by and checked out the bad ass art display from Punk Rock and Paintbrushes. They had some insane Flogging Molly original artwork, photographs, and signed band pieces for sale. It was really cool to see an art show like this dedicated to the headlining band. Once inside the venue, the crowd was in a generally great mood. Lots of people dressed in their finest St. Patrick’s Day celebratory garb and ready for a party. Of course, Flogging Molly did not disappoint. The house lights dropped, the crowd roared, and Dave, Bridget, Matt, Nathen, Dennis, and Spencer walked on to the stage. Under bright white spots, the band opened the show with a classic from their smash hit album, Swagger. They did a haunting version of “The Likes of You Again” to start things out. I am always curious what they will start their show with as it changes frequently. Sometimes you get something super upbeat and sometimes you get something filled with emotion. This night we got a slow, more mellow, yet nonetheless powerful start. It was a great slow boil moment. At the end of the song, front man Dave King took a moment to welcome the crowd and tell us all how excited they were to be back in Las Vegas. King took a moment to point out a couple on the front rail who were dressed up in St. Patrick’s Day costumes and joked that he loved it, and it was what he looked like on a daily basis.

Next up in the set was one that got the crowd moving and jumping up and down, but no pit yet.

Wait, what? Come on Las Vegas!!! This is punk show, let’s go!!

The always energetic, charismatic, and exciting guitarist, Dennis Casey, broke into the opening riff of “Swagger”, and the crowd really came alive. It’s such a great tune and filled with so much upbeat energy, how can you not want to move or mosh? About halfway through the song, a pit finally opened up in the middle of the floor, and it was a beautiful sight. People dressed in all manner of attire, from St. Patrick’s Day costumes to kilt wearing men, to parents with smaller kids, it was a fast paced yet “gentle” pit where anyone could jump in, burn some energy, have a great time, and feel safe; a starter pit if you will. The song came to an end and King again chatted up the crowd. He talked about the band having a day off in Vegas the day before the show and loving the town. He teased bassist Nathen Maxell about going to see Wayne Newton the night before, but come on, Wayne freaking Newton is an icon in Las Vegas! Dave went on to talk about the tour so far and how this leg was coming to an end before they headed to Europe. Dave told the crowd how many years ago the band had received a call from a promoter saying that the Pogues had to cancel a Vegas show last minute and asked Flogging Molly to fill in, which they did. He said the band has had a love affair with playing shows in Las Vegas ever since. With that, Casey dropped into the opening lines of “The Kilburn High Road”. And yes, as you guessed, the crowd went nuts and the place started bouncing! No, I mean literally, the floor was bouncing, and I do not mean a small barely noticeable shaking, I mean the floor was freaking bouncing up and down! During a later point in the show, King mentioned how the venue had a different design and was renowned for the near trampoline like floor, and it was one of the reasons they love playing the venue because not only can the band see the crowd’s energy, but they can also feel it…literally.

Unfortunately for me and the review, after the first three songs we photographers are escorted out and we had to store our gear before we could go back in to watch the rest of the show. So, I missed “A Song of Liberty”, “Drunken Lullabies” (DAMN IT!!), “No Last Goodbyes”, and “The Hand of John L. Sullivan”. But, from my friends who were at the show, they all said the four songs were brilliant and the crowd went especially crazy for “Drunken Lullabies”…obviously.

Once back in the venue, “Tobacco Island” had just started. I made my way towards the middle of the floor and prepared myself to jump into the pit. What a blast! At 53 years of age, I cannot safely endure some of the more hardcore pits. Yeah, I know, I am old, but after 32 years of playing ice hockey, this old body does not recover easily or quickly when getting slammed around in the pit. So, I was very pleasantly surprised at the mellow nature of this pit. It was awesome. Following “Tobacco Island”, the gang slowed things down for a pair of songs with “The Croppy Boy ’98”, and then a personal favorite, “Float”. Two great songs, and they sounded so damn good live! “Float” took on extra special sentiment for me this night as it is a favorite of one of my friends who would have been at this show, but she’d been hospitalized. So, this one gave me all the feels. Love ya Em!!!

King then took some time to chat with the crowd a bit more. He took the time to spotlight two ladies from war torn Ukraine who had left Ukraine and followed the band around Europe and were in attendance for their first ever Flogging Molly show in the States. He encouraged the crowd to support the Ukrainian people with all they are going through. King then went on to introduce the love his life and best friend, his wife and fiddle/tin whistle player Bridget Regan.

She came forward and played an interlude on the tin whistle that was simultaneously beautiful and haunting, totally reminiscent of what makes so much traditional Celtic music great.

At the end of the interlude the all too familiar drum rim tapping started and Regan started the tin whistle intro to “Devil’s Dance Floor”. The crowd exploded with cheers, and the pit went off instantly. Time for this old man to get out! The crowd all danced, encouraged by the band to jump up and down, and the floor once again felt like a trampoline! It was freaking awesome, and I have never felt anything like it! This was followed up by “Life Begins and Ends (but Never Fails)”, and “Crushed”, before the band broke into the crowd favorite, “Seven Deadly Sins” (admittedly one of my all-time favorites of theirs). The crowd jumped in unison, the floor bouncing as wildly as our hearts and souls in the moment. The energy continued through the room with the newer tune “These Times Have Got Me Drinking/Tripping Up the Stairs”.

The final two songs before the encore were a mix of slow and dramatic, and powerful and fast. They started off with “If I Ever Leave This World Alive”, which is just a beautiful ballad. It is such a great song live. The band just puts so much into this one live and it really brought the emotion of the song to life. The final song of the set was the powerhouse “What’s Left of the Flag”, which of course got the crowd going hard once again and had the floor bouncing like a bounce house at a kid’s birthday party.

The band took a very short break and came right back to wrap up the night with “Black Friday Rule” and closed the show with “Salty Dog” from their hit album, Swagger. Of course, the band took their bow while “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life” from Monty Python played over the PA. It’s always such the perfect ending to a Flogging Molly show, and one that I both love and hate. I love it because it is such a perfect way to balance the positivity of that song with some of the heavier lyrics in the Flogging Molly catalog, but it is bittersweet because it marked the end of yet another fantastic Flogging Molly show. King and the band played a wonderful show and gave the audience everything they had, and they did not disappoint. It was the perfect band to launch the St. Patrick’s Day celebration festivities.

Photography and writing by: Shane Pase

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