"You're embarrassing yourself," Ken Casey mutters after an impromptu "Let's Go Rangers" cheer erupted at Terminal 5 during Dropkick Murphy's own personal St. Patrick's Day party. The Boston Celtic band and heir apparent to the Pogues crown as the best of the Irish rock bands do get on well with New Yorkers… but not about everything.
If you don't know Dropkick Murphys imagine if you will a boatload of Ben Afflecks in "Good Will Hunting" and there you have them. As Boston as they are Irish, as loud and brash as a band with songs like "Kiss Me, I'm Shitfaced" and "The Irish Rovers" and "The Fighting 69" ever ever will be. Big time fans of the Red Sox and the Bruins and authors of local sports anthem "I'm Shipping Back To Boston" there is an enormous amount of love and antagonism between Dropkick Murphys and us New Yorkers. They are like a kid brother who out does you in too many things.
And they were simply brilliant Wednesday night. A 90 minute plus extravaganza of Celtic vibes with two lead singers, all the muscle in the world and, after 17 years, complete control of their environment: they sing about drinking, Boston, revolution, Ireland, drinking and sports in Boston and drinking and girls and being irish and drinking.And it is great fun, it is like fun to be alive when it is and serious when it should be. And, kid brother style, they aren't the Pogues but they don't have the worrisome edge of the Pogues: the Pogues shows dangled on the slimmest of hopes, that Shane could make it through, the Murphs are total pros. But the Pogues had two things the Murphs don't:
1. One of the greatest songwriters of his generation in Shane
2. A civil war to sing about.
The civil war was raging at the Pogues height in the 1980s but is so over so when Dropkick Murphys get their politics on they sound more petulant than revolutionary.
The other band with their eye on the Celtic rockers crown is Black 47, but Black 47 are too intellectual, they keep on tripping over their musical arrogance and can be a bore live. But at least Black 47 have the ambition to want to be the greatest. Dropkick Murphy's just want to rock till they drop. And from their somewhat simplistic Thin Lizzy quasi-tribute "The Boys Are Back" through "Burn", "Johnny We Hardly Knew You" "When Our Ship Comes In" all the way through a personal best "Worker's Song" through "Going Out In Style" new song "The Rose Tattoo" and beyond, the energy never flags, the band is never less than tight and crisp and the set an exceptional rock and rollercoaster ride but all in one direction and that is up.
Dropkick Murphy's are hard but not heavy. Neither the punk, which comes and goes, nor the Irish jigginess, which is somewhat constant gets in the way of the band as a band. From their Hellcat years to their post-the Departed major record company present, they have grown without really changing and the sound doesn't have the clutter of a beginners band: it is lockstep but swinging, hard and smooth. If they were just a bit more melodic more constantly catchy they could be an E Street band type old time rock and roll heroes.
Plus: the audience looks like the band and mirrors the band. It is as if Dropkicky Murphy has left the stage and morphed into a couple of thousand guys plus colleens. All of whom are having a great time and why shouldn't they? With two lead singers and dozens of great drinking, partying rock and roll songs, they provide something much easier to attempt than succeed at. The Murphs are from Quincy, Massachusetts, 20 minutes away from South Boston, and they are working class heroes and never more so than on set highlight "Worker's Song". Written by Englishman Ed Pickford in the 1970s, "Worker's Song" is a rousing call to arms "We're the first ones to starve and the first ones to die, the first in line for that pie in the sky…" Al Barr takes the lead (Ken and Al alternate lead vocals) and with his tatted up brawny arms and baseball cap he has the muscular attitude of a tough guy Woody Guthrie. Ken and Al do this all the time but if they were only a little better at it. Still, from the touch of Brogue to the all Americanism they are a local band made good. They exemplify so much of what I love about rock and roll: in it for a good time yet seeped in tradition, a moving swiveling piece of power rock.
However, I wish the band wrote better melodies. I understand they are punks, but why do you think early punk was successful? Too often their songs turn into chants. They are a really good band and I love them dearly but maybe I take them a little for granted. I just want them to be a little better. Not a lot. They aren't off by much.
And a lot of my problems as they stand is not with the band in itself but with Terminal 5. I don't think I'm going back again. This fucking barn was converted in 2007 and it is like a gigantic airline hangar,. The sound is awful. They have three floors and not a single siteline. They have no close circuit on the stage. Unless you get there at the crack of dawn it is atrocious., And if you do get there early for Dropkick Murphys you'll get pushed to death. The sound is awful, awful. The Dropkick Murphy's sounded kinda quiet. The MURPHS??? The guys were working so hard and people were talking nearby me. How is this possible? The sound was muffled, they couldn't see, and when they could, people were constantly pushing them as others wandered around trying to get a better view. I loath the place. They make every single show much worse.
I hope Dropkick Murphys get extra bucks for playing this terrible place. I hope whoever designed is forced to watch every show for the rest of s/he life from the mid-floor. Or worse, the second line of the balcony.
So, no, Dropkick Murphys aren't the new Pogues. But they are a good band and I like them and admire them and will see em every March… just please, not at T5. "Friends, Love, Loyalty" is Dropkick Murphys motto. Agreed… but LET'S GO RANGERS!!!
weaving a fairy tale for us to get lost in
Creem – America’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll Magazine, Reviewed Issue By Issue – July 1973 (Volume 5, Number 2)
“I don’t consider David (Bowie) to be even remotely big enough to be any competition.”
an old school New York feel
oedipal vulnerable and blue collar visceral
An emotional song with Miya’s acrobatic and vulnerable vocals
Creem – America’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll Magazine, Reviewed Issue By Issue – May 1973 (Volume 4, Number 12)
From Robert Johnson to the Ramones – what a life!
one of the great top tens of the 2020
will mark their return to the road in early February, 2023 with a string of to-be-announced US arena dates
enjoyable and soulful romp
another full day of music