The Dropkick Murphys, what started as in independent Celtic punk band out of Quincy, Massachusetts, has turned into the quintessential music fans dream when it comes to live performances. On March 4, 2017, I had the honor of seeing the band at Iron City in Birmingham, Alabama. I came expecting a high energy show and a rowdy crowd. I was not disappointed on either count.
The opening band was Blood or Whiskey, a band out of Dublin, Ireland. They were a fine warm-up act for what was coming. Taking the stage with a flute and trumpet player, they proceeded to start the first circle moshpit of the night. It by far wasn’t going to be the last. They set a tone which the other bands kept building on until the crowd was in a full frenzy.
The second band was The Interrupters, a band out of Los Angeles, California, which gained a bit of fame when their song “Take Back the Power” was featured in a Michael Moore documentary. Their sound was amazing. They mix catchy melodies with a ska sound that is reminiscent of No Doubt in their prime but with more edge and no horns section. Aimee Interrupter, the lead singer, can pull off that traditional ska sound but she can put that growl in her voice that suggests she could lead a hard rock band easily. The Interrupters had the crowd singing along at the top of their lungs and the guitar solos from Kevin Bivona were executed with rock n roll perfection. This band is definitely one to watch out for. I can’t remember a band that could mix ska with an edge like this ever before. Needless to say, they are one of my new favorite bands. By the time they were done, the crowd was peaking. The energy was electric. You could just feel something amazing was about to happen…and it did.
The lights went dark and over the PA they started playing a traditional Irish song and the crowd started chanting for the Murphys to make their appearance. From the moment you heard Al Barr scream in his growl of a voice, “Are you ready Birmingham?” it was on. “The Boys Are Back” kicked off the set and the building exploded. A moshpit started and it continued through their entire hour and a half set. Everyone was singing at the top of their lungs as the band demonstrated that they aren’t just touring to bleed money from the fans—they came to blow the roof off the house.
Everything you’d expect from a Dropkick Murphys show you got: bagpipes, banjos, flutes, even a head-banging accordion player. It was absolutely amazing listening to all this instrumentation being played at the Dropkick Murphys furious pace. Every band member but the drummer sang at least some during the show and they blended together beautifully, each vocalist adding a little something different to the performance. Every song made you want to either mosh or do an Irish Jig, or perhaps a bit of both, but isn’t that the whole reason you go to a Dropkick Murphys’ show?
Fifteen minutes into the show they played “Kid, You’ve Got Heart,” and the crowd went absolutely mad. Crowd-surfers appeared everywhere as the moshpit grew to occupy almost the entire floor section. At one point, a fan jumped on stage, threw up the hand gesture for metal, and then dove back into the crowd. It was beautiful chaos and the staff at Iron City handled it wonderfully. Crowd surfers were caught before they fell and sent back into the crowd. Even the guy who jumped on stage was simply escorted back into the crowd without penalty. Other venues might have thrown people out, but it was a Dropkick Murphys show, the staff knew it was going to be a wild night and they let some things slide. Kudos to them for letting everyone have fun. It was one giant party.
You got all the classics, including a version of “Going Out In Style” where they sped the tempo up to an almost unbelievable frantic pace. They even broke out songs from their new album and they were just as good or better than the songs the fans already know and love. Some of the highlights off the new album include “Blood” which had the crowd screaming along as the band shredded out power chord after power chord. “Paying My Way” was another new track that highly impressed. The beat was reminiscent of Queen’s “We Will Rock You” and was filled with inspirational lyrics about being a fighter and a survivor. The melody to this song is infectious and the lyrics just beg for you to scream along at the top of your lungs. The new album isn’t just “filler,” or an attempt to make money off their fanbase. This album is one of their finest works yet. It’s so impressive to see a band after two decades putting out such quality work. It’s a rarity in the modern music era.
The band left the stage, obviously baiting the crowd for screams for an encore, and boy did they ever get one. The entire crowd started shouting, “Let’s go Murphys!” and it was deafening. Of course, the band obliged us with that encore, performing their biggest hit “Going Back to Boston” to everyone’s delight. Per the norm for Dropkick Murphys’ concerts, the band had a number of fans join them on stage for their final number. My wife and I were lucky enough to be two of those fans.
I was expecting their trademark “Kiss me I’m Shitfaced,” but the band pulled a swerve by playing a song of their new album called “Until The Next Time.” It’s one of their slower songs, but it’s a beautiful little diddy about the show being over and saying goodbye to the fans. I had the honor of slow dancing with my wife to this song before I joined one of the guitar players on his mic and helped sing the chorus (and I have the picture to prove it). With a chorus like, “We’ll meet again, don’t know where, don’t know when. We all had a good time and we’re sad to see it end. Good luck be with you. You’ll go your way. I’ll go mine. So until the next time it’s farewell and not goodbye.” this is the perfect song for them to end the show on. It’s like a love-note to the fans after an hour and a half of energetic chaos and sing-alongs.
This was my first Dropkick Murphys concert and I assure you, it will not be the last. They were everything I expected and so much more. They went from a band I liked to a band I truly love. I’ve seen some of the biggest names in music: Rob Zombie, Marilyn Manson, Ozzy, Disturbed—and the Dropkick Murphys blew all of them off the stage. If you have a chance to see them on tour or pick up their new album “11 Short Stories of Pain and Glory,” do it—you will not be disappointed. This was possibly the greatest concert I have ever had the pleasure of going to.
RATING: most definitely a 5 out of 5 for the energy, the showmanship, the quality of the musical performance, and the band’s interaction with the fans. 21 years later and the Murphys haven’t lost a step. If anything, they’re getting better. Long live the Dropkick Murphys!
Jay Michel Wright II