Leo & Anto: Saw Docs main main + Waterboys sax-man gone acoustic at the Irish Village July 29/30

If you know anything about the long-running Irish band, the Saw Doctors, you know they’re mostly a rousing, Celtic-flavored rock ‘n’ roll band, not shy about fist-pumping anthemic songs. The quintet, formed in Tuam, County Galway, has had a home away from home in clubs around New England and they’ve provided a rollicking good time in concert since they hit our shores in 1991. The Saw Doctors’ main man, singer-guitarist Leo Moran, is on a different path right now. And he has an American role model for what he’s doing on the road: Jonathan Richman, the former Bostonian who’s long been performing in a duo setting, expertly mixing richly detailed, acoustic-based songs with witty repartee. “I would like to learn from him,” says Moran, on the phone from Ireland. ”He’s the master.” So, what does Moran want to do here at the Irish Village Tuesday July 29 and Wednesday July with 30th with partner Anthony Thistlewaite. “The main thing I have in mind is this,” says the 49-year-old Moran. “People have bought tickets, left their home for an evening, gone to a lot of trouble and you have to leave them with something that makes it worth their while, whatever that is. Hopefully, we’ll be singing a few songs they’re familiar with, tell a few stories, do requests, and be in the room with the people for a couple of hours.” You can expect to hear Moran’s “Same Aul Town,” “Exhilarating Sadness,” “Clare Island,” “Shamtown” and “The Wisdom of Youth,” as well as Thistlethwaite’s “Mr. Customs Man” and “Back to the Land,” among many others, when they play two shows at the Burren in Somerville. (Early shows at that, 5:30 and 7:30.) But, Moran says, “it’s different every night. A big part of the show is people singing along. It’s a very slow show. There’s less people in the band involved, so there’s less coordination [needed]. We can do anything we want. We can take our time. It’s all about sharing your emotions for two hours, wherever that leads us.”” Thistlethwaite – who came of note in the Waterboys in 1983 – met Moran at a Galway Arts Fair in 1988. The Saw Doctors were playing a fundraiser and the Waterboys were nearby recording what would be one of their finest efforts, “Fisherman’s Blues.” Thistelethwaite jammed with the Doctors. The Waterboys asked the Saw Doctors to open for them on a subsequent tour. And Thistlethwaite, 58, has been in the Saw Doctors off and on since 1993. Moran and Thistlethwaite have recorded one CD, “Flyin’ It!,” under the moniker Leo & Anto, which Moran admits sounds a bit like a circus act. There is some juggling, he says, with the song choices and vocal roles. Also, with what Thistlethwaite does, playing saxophone, harmonica, bass and mandolin. “We’re playing some old favorites, obviously, but in a much quieter fashion,” Moran says. “That’s kind of juggling them around a bit. People really concentrate a bit more on the words than they might have. When you break it down to very simple backing, it leaves the songs very bare, but it means you can hear all the words and some people never listen to the words.” Especially if the song has a cheery sound and the lyrics, maybe, run contrary. “And very often the Saw Doctors had that,” says Moran, finishing the thought. “Maybe some serious lyrics, but the delivery was always upbeat. I think that was the charm about the Saw Doctors, that kind of mixture. When you have the big band, there’s the big riffs and the loud drums and all that and it’s a different kind of ceremony. But there’s more melancholia [in the songs] than people might have expected because of the delivery.” The Saw Doctors are on what might best be called hiatus. “We just had to take a break,” Moran says, “because we hadn’t taken a break since we started. At the moment, we’re not making plans. The worst thing to do is say we’re finished and then come back and do a comeback tour.” The Saw Doctors’ songs often have small-town settings or evince a yearning for a rural, pastoral way of life, traits Moran says became more prominent in the latter days of the Saw Doctors run. “It’s funny,” says Moran. “We grew up in a small town, but we always had a superiority complex about people who came into our schools on buses. We thought we were urban and above the people that were rural. Then we started to tour and we realized we were rural. And the people in Dublin had a superior attitude toward us! I suppose that’s a never-ending cycle. You get a bit more mature, and you realize everybody’s just a bit different.” Many songwriters bristle at the idea that their songs are directly about their own lives. Not Moran. “I’m not any good at fiction at all,” he says, with a laugh. “I wish I was. I read novels and I think ‘God, how do people do this?’ I can only do the reality songs. I’m more a journalist.” What makes for a successful song? “You write a lot of songs and a lot of them don’t work,” Moran says. “People may think every song is great but they don’t realize a lot of stuff that doesn’t work. What you’re trying to do is write something from your life that connects with something that they recognize in their own. That’s when you get a little bit of magic. You never know exactly how you’re going to do it so you keep trying different ways. We’ve written songs I’ve loved and they’ve meant nothing to an audience. You never know. You bring them out in front of people and see if they make friends.” Why do the good ones stick with people, and not just with the Irish or Irish-Americans? “I think it’s because the songs are simple and they’re easy to understand,” Moran says. “That’s what we’re always aiming at – to have a bit of fun with some seriousness mixed in, but the simplicity of song is our currency. The more local the songs are, the more universal they are, too.” Moran has to wear two hats: the entertainer and the artist. “It’s like a playwright who sits in the room many hours creating the play and then there’s the actor on the stage. The songwriter who goes out on stage doing gigs has to be a bit of both. People ask if I write when I travel around and I don’t. I’m a performer. You become the actor rather than the playwright.”

Shows start at 8. Limited to 90 tickets. Tickets: $25. 822 Rte. 28, S.  Yarmouth, Contact Tony Raine tony@raine-man.com or 508-294-2598