The Crowd Joins In At Shilelagh Law’s Veteran’s Day Concert

The line between stage and crowd was blurred at Mulcahy’s in Wantagh, New York on Friday, November 10, as New York’s thirstiest Irish band, Shilelagh Law, engaged with the crowd. For two hours, Mulcahy’s was filled with Irish music that ranged from the band’s original songs and classic Irish ballads to covers of Temple of the Dog and Indigo Girls. 

Shilelagh Law’s lead vocalist Richard Popovic (right) performs with fiddler Dennis McCarthy (left) at Mulcahy’s

Hailing from Yonkers and the Bronx, the band consists of Richard Popovic on lead vocals and acoustic guitar, Terence Brennan on bodhran, Stephen Gardner on bass, Dennis McCarthy on fiddle, and Kevin McCarthy on piano accordion. 

With two members part of the FDNY and another a retired member of the NYPD, along with many of their fans in the service, this Veteran’s Day Weekend show was of great importance to the band. Lead vocalist Popovic stated, “It’s always humbling to play on Veteran’s Day. It’s a small thing we can do for people who do so much for us.”

At approximately 9:30 pm, Mulcahy’s green lights shone upon Shilelagh Law as they took to the stage. The band opened with a cover of The Pogues’ “A Rainy Night in Soho,” a soft introduction that might have misled any newcomers. They might have presumed this concert would be like that of a mellow session. But Shilelagh Law had no such plans. After all, they’re ‘New York’s Thirstiest Irish Band.’

Living up to their reputation, Shilelagh Law riled up the crowd with a speedy rendition of “Whiskey in the Jar” that rivaled the fast-paced nature of “Lanigan’s Ball,” where it’s a challenge to sing at such a rate, let alone pronounce the lyrics correctly. Riding off that energy, Shilelagh Law did what they do best – engage with the crowd. 

Shilelagh Law took the first request of the night, “Glorious.” With lyrics, “Glorious. Glorious. One keg of beer between all of us. Glory be to God that there ain’t no more of us, cause one of us could drink it all alone,” it surely became a party. 

It was a party that resembled a family reunion. While the chorus for “Glorious” focuses on the party aspect of the concert, the verses speak to Shilelagh Law’s fanbase, the Shilelagh Army, who’s united through their love for Irish music. “The Shilelagh Army is the best family.” This sentiment is what allows Shilelagh Law to work with the crowd in such an organic manner that dissolves the barrier between the artists and audience. Popovic stated, “To recognize the fans and make them feel they are a part of the show as much as possible is important to us.”

The band continued to include the audience in their show, taking more requests as the night lingered on. Following “Glorious” was a request for “Linger” by The Cranberries. Shilelagh Law performed the classic with a slight twist. Rather than play the opening with an electric guitar, band member Dennis McCarthy performed it on the tin whistle, leaning into the song’s longing plea for love. 

Popovic spoke to the band’s take on classics, such as “Linger” and “Hungry Strike” by Temple of the Dog, which was sung towards the end of the show. “Usually one of us will come in with the bare basics. Everyone halfway learns their parts. We mess around with it for a few sound checks, and then just go for it. It’s not always smooth sailing, but it does leave lots of room for surprises and improvisation.”

Even more room is left for improvisation due to the fact Shilelagh Law doesn’t have a setlist. Without a the strict confinement, Shilelagh Law is able to lean into the energy of the audience (and with the energy of more than a few Rangers’ fans present, a couple “Go Rangers” chants were shouted by the band here and there). 

Shilelagh Law closes out their Veteran’s Day Weekend show with an electric performance of “The Star Spangled Banner.”

Even though the setlist is always changing, there’s one song that always makes the list, “Christmas in New York.” As the opening notes of it played, the lights dimmed. In place of the bright lights were tiny stars that glistened across the venue along with an American flag displayed behind the band. The song pays respect to New York’s finest and any friends who passed during the year. The audience joined in paying their respects, pouring out their hearts while singing along. 

“Christmas in New York” was followed by a couple classics, such as “Rattlin’ Bog” and “Grace,” before Shilelagh Law concluded their performance around 11:30 pm. But that didn’t stop the audience from demanding more. The band came back for not one but two encores, both of which continued to pay respect to veterans. Their first encore consisted of a cover of Flogging Molly’s “If I Ever Leave This World Alive,” which was dedicated to all veterans.

The band then concluded their Veteran’s Day show with their rendition of “The Star Spangled Banner.” Fiddle player Dennis McCarthy played with such vigor and in a style similar to that of Eileen Ivers that transformed the fiddle into an electric guitar. The result was a Jimi Hendrix-styled rendition of “The Star Spangled Banner” to close out the night. 

Luckily it won’t be long to catch Shilelagh Law back again in Long Island. They’ll be at the The Inn of Long Beach on Nov. 25 at 9pm. Know that if one attends their concert, they’re bound to catch Shilelagh Law fever and leave part of the Shilelagh Army family. For more information about Shilelagh Law’s upcoming shows, click here.

Setlist: Rainy Night in Soho, Whiskey in the Jar, Glorious, Olé Olé & Notre Dame Victory March Mashup, Linger, Shipping Up to Boston & Drunken Sailor Mashup, 1 and 9, Funky Ceili, Hunger Strike, The Liver Song, Ring of Fire, The Fighting 69th, Meet Me on McLean, Ham and Cheese with Mayo, When New York Was Irish, Christmas in New York, Closer I Am To Fine, Fields of Athenry, Rattlin’ Bog, and Grace.
Encore 1: If I Ever Leave This World Alive
Encore 2: The Star Spangled Banner

1 Comment
  1. Gary Boulanger says

    Thank you so much for your wonderful review of this amazing band. As always we look forward to seeing them again on Long Island in Long Beach, as well as their many shows around the NY area. As you wrote the Shilelagh Army is truly the best family.

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