Flogging Molly, The Bronx and Face To Face put on a blazing show as Fireball tour hits Newcastle

It takes a good band to stand out in the overcrowded Celtic punk scene, where many of the participants have connections to the old country which are tenuous to say the least.

Dave King of Celtic punks Flogging Molly, who headlined the Fireball - Fuelling The Fire tour, performing at the O2 Academy in Newcastle.
Dave King of Celtic punks Flogging Molly, who headlined the Fireball - Fuelling The Fire tour, performing at the O2 Academy in Newcastle.

Dave King, the founder and frontman of Flogging Molly, is definitely NOT such a pretender. Born in Dublin, he moved to America in his 20s, and formed Flogging Molly at his local Irish bar.

The fact they're headlining the Fireball – Fuelling The Fire tour - which, for the last four years has brought together some of the best bands from the various strands of punk - is testament to their popularity. But more of them later.

Flogging Molly accordionist Matt Hensley in action at the O2 Academy in Newcastle as they headlined the Fireball - Fuelling The Fire tour.

After short sets from up and coming Sunderland band Thieves Of Liberty and Fireball's Hottest Band of 2018 Lost In Stereo (both of which I'm sorry to say I missed due to the early start, it was time for Californian punk to land in Newcastle.

First up were Face To Face, veterans of the So.Cal scene who were formed in 1991, and, apart from a four-year break, have been impressing audiences ever since with their melodic brand of punk rock.

Frontman Trever Keith joked that while they might be 50-year-olds, the four-piece still know how to tear it up, and he wasn't wrong, as they smashed through a 13-song set book-ended by their best songs, You've Done Nothing and Disconnected.

Next up were another Californian band, The Bronx, from Los Angeles, whose blistering show brought the sort of intensity to the room that makes you realise you're witnessing something very special indeed.

Californian punk band Face To Face showed with their support slot on the Fireball - Fuelling The Fire tour why they have fans all over the world.

A rollicking rock 'n' roll band whose sound crosses into hardcore, they're five albums into their career, and if there's a better live punk band out there right now I'd love to see them.

Vocalist Matt Caughthran and his band were on fire from the off, and the levels of energy they put into their performance were matched all the way by the crowd.

With two guitars, bass (wielded by Scott Shiflett, brother of the Foo Fighters' Chris) and drums, they pack a powerful punch, and Caughtran clearly enjoyed the reaction they were getting , urging the audience to give him more.

Dipping into every corner of their back catalogue, they put on an incendiary show, and when at one point the singer disappeared into the crowd for two whole songs, you feared he might not get back to the stage.

Matt Caughtran, singer of special guests The Bronx, who threatened to upstage headliners Flogging Molly with an incendiary set at the O2 Academy in Newcastle.

They've played the Fireball tour before, as their Mexican folk music alter egos Mariachi El Bronx, but this was a stunning performance which laid down the gauntlet to the headliners.

Time then for Flogging Molly. If you're unfamiliar with them think of The Pogues with a singer you can understand, and you won't be far off the mark.

The LA-based seven-piece blend traditional Celtic instruments such as accordion, tin whistle, fiddle and mandolin with the rock staples of guitar, bass and drums, and along with the Dropkick Murphys they're the leading exponents of the Irish-American genre.

Over a 20-year career they've released six studio albums, and this tour is helping to promote the most recent, last year's Life Is Good. Three of its songs made the setlist, but, as you'd expect, it was the oldies which really got the place moving.

Dave King of Celtic punks Flogging Molly, who headlined the Fireball - Fuelling The Fire tour, performing at the O2 Academy in Newcastle.

From the first bars of opener (No More) Paddy's Lament, the floor immediately exploded into a whirling mass of dancing bodies, which scarcely relented for the rest of the night.

Drunken Lullabies, Swagger, Devil's Dance Floor, and the rarely-played Rebels Of The Sacred Heart were lapped up like the classics slabs of Celtic punk that they are.

The Likes Of You Again was dedicated to Pete Shelley of the Buzzcocks, the news of whose sad death had filtered through to the audience during the evening.

And after finishing with The Seven Deadly Sins and the encore If I Ever Leave This World Alive, Flogging Molly just about snatched victory from the jaws of defeat.

They might not have quite had the energy of The Bronx, but they're a polished live band, with just the right amount of showmanship, and King ended the night conducting the crowd as they sang along to the Monty Python song Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life.

It was certainly a night which left you feeling positive about the future of punk music, and I can't wait to see what next year's tour brings.

Flogging Molly, who headlined the Fireball - Fuelling The Fire tour at the O2 Academy in Newcastle, combine traditional instruments with the rock 'n' roll staples of guitar, bass and drums.