THE REAL MCKENZIES – Helsinki January 2011

Text & pics by PETE ALANDER

Normally I don´t like the sound of a bagpipe that much, but mix it up with punk and hard rock, and shake it with some drunken madness. Then you’ve got a formula that really works!

The Real McKenzies hails from Canada and has delivered their ultimate drinking habits since 1994. I noticed the greatness of this band when I got to know bands like Flogging Molly, The Pogues and Dropkick Murphys. The Real McKenzies is a great companion to that list, and tonights performance proved it. You got the best songs from all of their albums. Especially the mighty ´Oot and aboot` was very well performed. Yet again, during my 6th pint of beer I lost track of the setlist and just enjoyed the show and had a great time.

You could easily say McKenzies are just a bunch of drunken lads without talent but that is not right. All the guys are professional musicians and love what they do and have been doing this for many years now. Paul McKenzie, for example, has a very personal, rich and deep voice. He is also a very talented singer, who could probably sing in any band. The guitarist Mark Boland and the bagpiper Gord Taylor are multitalented musicians and have been playing instruments since they were kids.


The Real McKenzies show was full of positive energy, beer, whiskey, nudity, punk, hard rock, heavy metal and sing-a-long themes. One of these themes ´Cross the Ocean´ was also played. It sums up pretty much everything about this music and this band. It is the perfect song to cheer you up, and you could hear the crowd chanting it out loud. Yours truly included. Some technical problems didn´t stop the show. Instead, they pushed the band to give even better performance.

The whole band was fun to watch. You could see the bagpiper Gord leaving the stage and getting a beer in the middle of a song. Mark Boland mooned to the crowd occasionally and Paul threw good jokes to the crowd. You could also see the whole band getting more and more drunk during the show. Luckily, it didn´t effect their playing.

There was also an acoustic part in the show, and it was good to calm things down a bit before the hard rock sound rocked the crowd once more. The Real McKenzies released a brilliant acoustic live album ´Shine not Burn´ last year and, based on that, they sure know how to throw decent Scottish melodies in an acoustic way. One of the finest moments from the show was when the whole band chanted together. You could feel shivers down your spine on some of the choruses.

I strongly advice to check this band out whenever you have the chance. Just remember to take a lot of liquids before, during and after the show! Oh, and drink some water, too. You´ll get sweaty from all the jumping and dancing.

From tonight´s performance I only missed their extremely good covers of `Swords of a Thousand Men´ and Turbonegro´s ´Sailorman`. Maybe next time…


Paul McKenzie
Dirty Kurt Robertson
Mark (The Bone) Boland
Gwomper Sean Sellers
Gord Taylor



About Pete Alander

Graphic designer, webmaster and contributor at the Steel Mill.