Dropkick Murphys: Manchester – live review

Dropkick Murphys
The Ritz, Manchester
Tuesday 15th January 2013

The last time Boston’s finest played Manchester they were a mile down the road at the cavernous and somewhat sterile Academy; this time they thankfully chose The Ritz right in the heart of town; the venue is a former 1920’s traditional music hall complete with a sprung floor and a semi circular balcony that evokes a feeling of intimacy between the band and the crowd – intimacy and commradeship is what defines the Dropkick Murphys attitude and has led them to become one of the biggest bands operating within the punk genre – as such this gig had sold out weeks prior to their appearance to promote the recently released ‘Signed And Sealed In Blood’ album.

A full 30 minutes before the Murphys stepped out onto the Ritz stage the faithful were repeatedly chanting “Let’s go Murphys, Let’s go Murphys”, the atmosphere steadily building along with the temperature; then as the haunting opening chords of The Chieftains & Sinead O’Connor ‘The Foggy Dew’ wafts out a few are already clambering on top of shoulders; arms outstretched to welcome their band – and boy do the Dropkick Murphys respond; They open with the aptly titled ‘The Boys Are Back’ an immediately catchy song that instantly had the crowd surging along to the rhythm; Al Barr pinball’s around the stage, pausing to holler the lyrics; passion engrained across his face, the veins in his neck clearly visible, front man and sole original member Ken Casey saunters around the stage, bass hung low – am I the only one who thought that (somewhat oddly) he has begun to resemble Russell from the Disney movie ‘Up’…

Anyway, down in the pit its getting pretty wild, numerous girls are being carried over the barrier and away to waiting medics, those that remain punching the air as the Murphys blend of punk and Celtic pub tunes fires their passions, the set careers across the bands entire catalogue from ‘Captain Kelly’s Kitchen’ to the new ‘Prisoners Song’ and back to ‘Sunday Hardcore Matinee’ though it’s clear that whilst the audience are swathed in DKM merch a vast majority of them are only familiar with the bands better known numbers; as such the biggest cheers are for ‘Johnny, I Hardly Knew Ya’ and ‘The Irish Rover’ at which point the crowd erupt, the air is filled with flying pints – the cool liquid no doubt welcome relief to the pit dwellers.

Dropkick Murphys: Manchester – live review

There are moments of relief, breath can be drawn during ‘The Rose Tattoo’ which also demonstrates that whilst the Dropkick Murphys are renowned for their high octane songs they clearly posses an intimate knowledge of song-writing; the track has some complex arrangements which even in the live arena did not cause any hiccups; its during these more sedate numbers that the pipe playing abilities of Scruffy Wallace come to the fore and reaffirm the bands link with the traditional music of their heritage, it’s a similar set up with ‘Jimmy Collins Wake’ from ‘Signed And Sealed’

But few bands roar with the sheer ferociousness of the Dropkick Murphys so we were soon back into the full throttle intensity of both ‘Burn’ the classic ‘Shipping Up To Boston’ and ‘The Workers Song’ which again reminds us that whilst the Murphys have the ability to effortlessly raise a smile there remains a deep rooted social cause within their lyrics; to accompany ‘End Of The Night’ a procession of girls clamber onto the stage, their partners taking over for ‘Skinhead On The MBTA’ – though strangely not a skinhead amongst them; they end the set with a faithful cover of AC/DC’s ‘Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap’; Al Barrs voice surprisingly capable even after the previous 90 minutes of hollering…a glorious finale.

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Phil Newall is 47, from The Wirral - he earns his living not writing about music nor playing music...though sorely wishes he could. He was fortunate enough to see many of the first generation punk bands when they played the U18's matinee shows at Eric's, Liverpool. As an attendee at Eric's he was exposed to punk rock, dub reggae, art rock, and all manner of weirdness; as a customer at Probe Records he was variously served and scowled at by Pete Wylie and Pete Burns - he has written for Record Collector, Whisperin & Hollerin, and Spiral Scratch and wanted to write a book detailing the Liverpool punk scene; however with 'Head-On' Julian Cope beat him to it...and frankly did a much better job.


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