The expression “what is seldom is wonderful” seems appropriate in the case of the Long Ryders. Touring to back up the release of the definite 4 CD box collection Final Wild Years (which as Dublin was the last night of a 12 date tour was sold out). The band had last visited Dublin back in 2004. Sid (Griffin) enquired as to whether anyone in the audience had been there and on hearing a round of affirmatives doubled that that was true. Hey Sid, I was there, as Lonesome Highway had reviewed that gig and interviewed you.
However the room was full and Sid thanked them for coming out on a Sunday night. The band certainly relived those final wild songs that have stood the test of time and still resonate with the audience. How much they might do so with a young contemporary audience is arguable. That however, doesn’t diminish the power and quality of the songs - or their performance. From all parts of their career came Run Dusty Run, Lights Of Downtown, Gunslinger Man, Good Times Tomorrow, Hard Times Today, Tell It To The Judge on Sunday, (Sweet) Mental Revenge, Wreck of the 809 and many more in a 25 song set. One that concluded with the obvious crowd pleasing favourite final encore of Looking For Lewis And Clark. Mr. Griffin joked at one point that they were “touring the singles” commenting that we should notice that “that the word ‘hit’ “ was absent from that sentence’.
The band look no older than they did on their last visit to Whelans and played with the same ageless energy - though by the end of the set Sid Griffin’s voice was showing the signs of singing over an electric band rather than the acoustic tones of his regular band The Coal Porters - The long Riders are Greg Sowders on drums, Stephen McCarthy on lead Telecaster and vocals, Tom Stevens on bass and vocals and Sid Griffin on guitar and harmonica. With all three handling lead vocals and harmonies the songs were varied and interesting. The majority were uptempo powerhouses but there were also a couple of slower songs to balance the set. There is always the danger that a legendary band can disappoint in a live setting and though there was a rough edge to the sound the overall effect was solidly steadfast.
The latter part of the set had a tendency towards twang while mid set once Griffin had strapped on the Rickenbacker for Ivory Tower there was that distinctive Byrds-style jangle that was very welcome. With Sid conducting the audience readily joined in the songs chorus on que. There was a degree of deadpan humour from Sid throughout. He noted how the music played as a band came on stage was cut once they came onstage ready or not. At one point as the band refined the stage sound there was a request from more kick (drum) upfront to which Sid rejoined “And I could use a kick up the rear”.
When the band came onstage for the trio of encores songs they requested that the audience smile while they took photos from the stage. This was the last date so they gave the show as much as they could and the audience gave it back. As Sid left the stage he told them that he loved everyone here and that if anyone knew broadcaster John Kelly (who couldn’t make the show) to tell him, no matter what they thought, that it was a great evening. No need to lie it was a special one from a band who never really got there due but have left a live and recorded legacy that is testament to their worth. That, my friends, is the state of this union.
Review by Stephen Rapid Photography by Kaethe Burt-O'Dea