The Saw Doctors' co-leader, singer/guitarist Leo Moran, writes in his liner notes to the band's first live album that, while fans consistently prefer their concerts to their albums, he had opposed releasing a live disc, which he felt couldn't hope to match the experience of being at one of their shows. Giving in, he offers "Apologies for some of the imperfections....There's Davey [Carton] laughing in the middle of singing a good few songs, the backing vocals aren't what they should be a lot of the time and all that kind of stuff." While charmingly self-deprecating, his remarks are not inaccurate; Live in Galway is hardly a polished performance, even if that's only to say that it is closer to being a real live album (i.e., one without studio overdubs) than most. That is less of a problem, however, than that the performance of a show before an enthusiastic hometown crowd ready to sing along on every song exacerbates the group's local (at the expense of its mass) appeal, a worry for a band still trying to replicate its Irish popularity overseas while writing songs about local concerns. "Green and Red of Mayo" refers to the flag of the Irish county of Mayo, not, as an ignorant American might imagine, to some sort of sandwich, and is sung in colloquial language in Carton's heavy Irish tenor, which suffers slurring as well as chuckles. But even if an international audience may have trouble figuring out what the songs and some of the fuss are about, the Saw Doctors' energy and commitment translate just fine, as does the attractive sound of its Celtic-tinged folk-rock. Live in Galway is the CD version of a show also released as a DVD, In Concert: Live in Galway, but the consumer will have to buy both to get the whole show, since the CD is missing three songs from the DVD (and is entirely re-sequenced), while the DVD lacks one -- "Share the Darkness" -- found on the CD. This probably is not the place to start in appreciating the Saw Doctors, but it does demonstrate their talents as a live attraction.
AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann