The Dropkick Murphys: Vicar Street, Dublin – live review
The Dropkick Murphys
Vicar Street, Dublin
12th Jan 2013
The Dropkick Murphys Signed and Sealed in Blood World Tour 2013 comes to Dublinâs Vicar Street. Support, Frank Turner, and Blood or Whiskey. Louder Than War were also in attendance.
The Dropkick Murphys return to Dublin for a 2nd of two nights at Dublinâs Vicar Steet. Just under a year since their last visit with a new album in tow.
Celtic punk band Blood or Whiskey are up first, a little earlier than the planned 7.45pm. They open with ‘No Answer’, the first of a few from last album ‘Cashed out on Cultureâ. The band have thrown themselves back into playing live since returning last year after a prolonged hiatus. The used that time to concentrate on recording the much anticipated follow up to 2005âs âCashed Outâ¦â
Tom Waits described the Pogues as playing like soldiers on leave, Blood or Whiskey are the younger draft dodging punk cousins. They play punk music with traditional Irish instruments, flamboyantly demonstrated through the use of Peter Townsendâs banjo, and some of the heaviest acoustic guitar youâre likely to hear, curtsey of front man Dugs Mulhooly. Itâs further exemplified by the use of thin whistle, and accordion, allowing the band to achieve something thatâs authentically Irish sounding, yet totally punk. They sound as vital here barging through an instrumental track as they do tearing through a song.
The set includes âDirty Old Warâ, a stomping vitriolic anthem from the forthcoming âTell the Truthâ¦Shame the Devilâ, a blistering âThey Say Noâ, the sea shanty sing along of âSober Againâ and they finish with the audience participating for âPoxy Pubâ, an apt critical attack on the trendy pubs scattered around Ireland since the beginning of the Celtic Tiger. It sees Dugs shouting out the chorus of âThereâs a Poxy Pubâ¦â and the audience jumping in for the refrain of âin my neighbourhood.â After which, its âCheers and SlÃ¡inteâ, and the band are finished their short tease of a set. Itâs been eight years since âCrahsed out on Cultureâ, and a follow up is long overdue. Iâm looking forward to hearing it, and catching this exciting live band several more times before the year is out.
I have to admit, I didn’t know a great deal about Frank Turner prior to the controversy over comments made regarding his political leanings. Iâve listened since, and have enjoyed what I heard, and believe he has the right to be vocal about what he believes in. Tonight this Winchester born man is sandwiched between two Irish acts, and I wondered how he’d go down tonight with an audience who might be feeling a bit overly patriotic. Despite playing last year at the Olympics ceremony, and being incredibly popular in his home country, heâs still prepared to earn his crust by being the support act. I’m a big fan of one man and his guitar when itâs done well. Billy Bragg, Tim Smith, and the full on Rock nâ Roll show of someone like Hamell on Trial are all examples of how it can be done with style, and panache.
Turner has no difficult commanding the attention of the nearly full venue. He opens with ‘If ever I Stray’ singing it a-cappella, slowly building in his guitar. His vocal is passionate, and save for a few uninterested voices, the majority are listening. âPeggy Sang the Bluesâ is one of the highlights. He plays a couple of tracks from his forthcoming album, including ‘I wanna dance’, a love song to punk rock, âsomebody told me that music with guitars was going out of fashion, the shit wasnât fashionable when I fell in love, if the hipsters are wrong, why should I give a fuck!â Like Blood or Whiskey before him, he gets a little audience participation going for âI still believeâ and the audience oblige tenfold. “There are no rock stars, just people who play music.” They are happy to assist later on set closer “Photosynthesis” too, and itâs another example of some great sing along lyrics. âI wonât sit down, and I wonât shut up, and most of all I wonât grow upâ.
Tonight Turner mostly impresses, and only occasionally misses, and that maybe just down to not wanting to hear quieter numbers. Obviously an actâs profile comes into how their billed, but there is going to be a natural lull when an acoustic act follows a raucous band like Blood or Whiskey. Turner just about manages to deal with that lull, his songs winning over with their infectious sing along quality and the man himself is warm, friendly and funny on stage and we look forward to him returning, as promised, for a headline show soon.
In the background Stiff Little Fingers are the precursor to The Dropkicks, and the crowd are chanting for the band. In the way they adopted a certain Irish aesthetic, so too have the Irish audience adopted them. There is also multinational representation in the crowd tonight. Like the Pogues, and indeed Blood or Whiskey, this Celtic flavoured music seems to work right around Europe, as well as Ireland, and the USA.
The lights come down and the Sinead Oâ Connorâs version of the âFoggy Dewâ blasts over the PA. The band burst on with âThe Boys are Backâ, the opening track from their new album. The plastic glasses fly up in the air, as do various bodies. What little room was left in the venue when Frank Turner played is now filled and the crowd here are up for a party. The pulsating beat of âBoysâ is punctuated with cries to âCâmon Dublin!â
Reports from last night were that things got a little chaotic. Tonight seems to be a little tamer, tomorrow is a school day after all. Kudos to whoever organised the welcoming attitude to the under 18s. The venue was allowing them in accompanied by an adult, a rarity these days. There is nothing worse that having your favourite band come to town, only to have to miss them because theyâre playing an over 18s venue.
Theyâre conscious of people of having come both nights, and to make it interesting, they promise to mix up the set a little. The accordion heavy âBattle Call is rambunctious,â Sunshine Highwayâ is melodic, and has a glam/early seventies punk rock feel to it. The crowd are totally pumped, and a blast of âThe Gang All Hereâ is totally fitting. Kenâs enquires if anybody has had a chance to listen to the just released new Signed Sealed in Blood?, and is met with a loud cheer, to which he thanks us, âYouâre too kind…God Bless Punk Rockâ.
âRose Tatooâ is another new track, one where the Pogues influence is strong. They wear their influence on their sleeves again with their version of the âIrish Roverâ, swapping vocals for different verses, breathing vitality into the track. Everybody sings a long in the Dropkicks, but Al Barr is in charge, and charged. He wanders across the stage making sure every nook and cranny of the audience is being worked. Throughout, the band is up and down off amps, swinging bodies and instruments around the stage, maintaining an adrenalin pumping atmosphere at all times. The band brought a whole new audience to some of Shane McGowanâs lesser known earlier material and the Nipâs âVengeanceâ, beginning like a Generation X song, is total punk rock, and one of the highlights of the show. .
There is a piano lead in for new track âDonât tear us apartâ, which demonstrates a Springsteen influence, a known champion of the band. He has joined them on stage several times, and on their last studio album âGoing Out in Styleâ. The track is bit of a dud live, but does feature some great guitar.
There are several revellers that have made the trek from Boston. Ken (Casey) was aware there was a few over, but judging by the reaction on his face, he wasnât aware there was so many. A female Bostonite is invited on stage to sing âThe Dirty Glassâ, for encouragement sheâs told not to worry, âwe keep on screwing it up…17 years and the still keep coming back.â She does a fine job, her mic is a bit low, but the sound quality improves through the duration. âGet Upâ has that early 70s guitar, again, and a gutsy and rough vocal They trample with animated brilliance through âJimmy Collins Wakeâ, the title track of the aforementioned âGoing Out in Styleâ and âBroken Hymnsâ. Blood or Whiskey and Frank are passionately thanked for their support, and the roof is blown for The Warrior Codeâs âShipping up to Bostonâ, surely one of the greatest party songs committed to record. Eton boy Frank Turner joins them on stage for the socialist leaning âWorkers Songâ and it closes the set.
They donât delay returning for the encore, kicking off with a rattling run-through of âBarroom Heroâ. âFields of Athenryâ is included in the final few songs. Itâs played to death here, we hear sped up versions at weddings, you learn it at school, and itâs sung at football games. Youâd be hard set to find people in Ireland who are not sick to death of listening to it. Dropkickâs attempt to revamp isnât completely successful and putting their own stamp on traditional songs is not something that always works for them. Itâs an aspect of the Dropkick Murphys that can grate. There are plenty of songs in their repertoire Iâd have preferred to hear before it, although judging by the reaction, Iâm in the minority. My qualms dissipate quickly anyway, due to the sheer force and exertion displayed on the stage, and they regain ground completely with âSkinhead on the MTBA.â The now customary invitation to the audience to join them on stage always brings a smile, itâs girls only first, but by the end of the night, and a risible rendition of ACDCâs âTNTâ, itâs lads and lassies, and the stage is wedged. Itâs a welcome bit of craziness to bring the show to a final close. Overall, a jam packed night of passionate party music, with only a few sporadic lulls. Theyâre going 17 years now, and this year sees the release of their 8th album. They still manage to put on an energetic show, and always maintain a constant party atmosphere.
All words by Ray Burke. More of Ray’sÂ Louder Than War writing can be found at his author archive here