Mad Dog Mcrea @Dingwalls 12/11/15

4 stars (out of 5)

2

Mad Dog TitleI don’t know how I managed to miss this one for so long, but this was my first visit to Dingwalls, and what a great music venue it is; good visibility all round, nice lighting for a few photos and a perfect atmosphere for this line-up of Gaz Brookfield, Mad Dog Mcrea and Ferocious Dog. The omens for the night were all good when we had a quick chat with Michael Mathieson of Mad Dog Mcrea on the way in to the gig and got in just in time to catch the opening set from Bristol-based Gaz Brookfield whose fast and furious acoustic songs set the tone for the evening.

The names Mad Dog Mcrea and Ferocious Dog seem to be inextricably interlinked in certain musical circles and, having been really impressed by Mad Dog Mcrea at The Half Moon earlier this year, I was curious to find out more about Ferocious Dog. I may be in a small minority here (although Plus One certainly agreed), but the running order didn’t really do Ferocious Dog any favours; Mad Dog Mcrea are a very difficult act to follow.

Ferocious Dog have built up a substantial following over the last few years with their high energy blend of folk and rock with punk attitudes and that’s exactly what they delivered on the night. They were visually striking as well (you can see the photos in a few days) but that added to my misgivings about the performance, particularly when compared to Mad Dog Mcrea. It felt a bit like things hadn’t moved on since the days of The Levellers or Chumbawamba and that some of the feeling for the music had been swamped by the attitude. It might just have worked out if they hadn’t been the last band on.

For a band supposedly promoting their “Almost Home” album (it’s very, very good and you should listen to it), Mad Dog Mcrea played a set that was much more of a greatest hits package based on requests from their many fans in the crowd. So, although “Heart of Stone” appeared near the start of the set, it was all about the crowd pleasers, from the traditional “Raggle-Taggle Gipsy” through “Johnny no Legs”, “Climb a Hill” and “Am I Drinking Enough?”, to the madness of “Little Black Fly” and “The Happy Bus”. Michael Mathieson (acoustic guitar and vocals) fronts up the party, but it’s also about the interplay between Pete Chart, Jimi Galvin, Dave Podmore, Dan Crimp and Nicki Powell, who create fascinating textures and glide effortlessly through changes of style and tempo. The band might try to make it look like it’s all just a bit of fun, but the music is everything, and that’s what connects them with the fans, who love the commitment and sheer joy of the band’s performance. Another triumph for Mad Dog Mcrea.

It must have been difficult for Ferocious Dog to follow that set. They didn’t do anything that was bad, but the bar had already been set way too high.