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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

The Dropkick Murphys rock out in their element

Published: March 20, 2009
Section: Arts, Etc.

On St. Patrick’s Day, no type of music seems as fitting as Celtic-infused punk rock. The greatest of all Boston-based bands, the Dropkick Murphys, know this full well, which is why they have been putting on a string of shows around and on St. Patrick’s Day for nine years. It is basically impossible to get tickets for the St. Patrick’s Day show, but I was able to go to the next best thing, the Monday night show at the House of Blues in Boston.

Doors opened at 6:00, with first act Brian McPherson presenting a strange dichotomy of rowdy Boston Irish words and lo-fi indie melodies. He was followed by an old friend of the band, Stigma. They were loud, hardcore and proud to be from New York. The only fitting opening seemed to be Black 47, with the tin whistles, and the pleasant brogues elevating the set. Yet it was fully evident that the crowd was only there to see Dropkick.

After a seemingly endless wait, Gregorian chanting erupted around 9:45, when the stage was revealed to be decorated with banners depicting architectural elements of a Gothic church, not without a few shamrocks. The chanting faded, only to have the band rush onstage and break, impassioned, into “Famous for Nothing,” possibly their track with the catchiest tune. The most enjoyable element of any Murphys’ song is the lyrical interplay between lead singer Al Barr and bassist/singer Ken Casey, and from the outset the men were in top form. From there it was on to “State of Massachusetts,” a song that managed to climb the Billboard 200, while being thoroughly mired in Boston.

Nonsensical, easily repeatable phrases made “Johnny I Hardly Knew Ya” and “Captain Kelly’s Kitchen” so enjoyable. Young step dancers from a local school danced on the stage in their adorable costumes for a number of songs, serving as an interesting contrast to the moshing and crowd surfing happening fervently on the floor below. Mickey Ward, the legendary inspiration for “The Warrior’s Code” was in the audience and was given a warm shout out. “Sunshine Highway” was merrily introduced by Casey as a rehab song, written before “that big-haired freak” made it popular. In the highlight of the evening, Liza Graves of Civet, joined the band onstage for my favorite song, “The Dirty Glass.” Of course, “Tessie,” and “The Fields of Athenry” made appearances, with the official show ended by “Kiss Me, I’m Sh*tfaced” and an invitation to all chubby, inebriated women to hop onstage. The encore featured a surprise cover of The Who’s “Baba O’Reilly” and the utterly inevitable “I’m Shipping Up to Boston.”

Not every song can be a standout, but most were, and the overall quality of the show was stellar.

The crowd was insanely excited, and their enthusiasm never waned. Though it wasn’t the exact St. Patrick’s Day show, it was just intoxicating enough to fill the entire audience with Irish pride.