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 Dublin’s 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 Dublin’s 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 Culture’. 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 2005’s ‘Cashed Out…’

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 Townsend’s banjo, and some of the heaviest acoustic guitar you’re likely to hear, curtsey of front man Dugs Mulhooly. It’s further exemplified by the use of thin whistle, and accordion, allowing the band to achieve something that’s 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 ‘Dirty Old War’, a stomping vitriolic anthem from the forthcoming ‘Tell the Truth…Shame the Devil’, a blistering ‘They Say No’, the sea shanty sing along of ‘Sober Again’ and they finish with the audience participating for ‘Poxy Pub’, 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 “There’s a Poxy Pub…” and the audience jumping in for the refrain of “in my neighbourhood.” After which, its “Cheers and Sláinte”, and the band are finished their short tease of a set. It’s been eight years since ‘Crahsed out on Culture’, and a follow up is long overdue. I’m 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. I’ve 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, he’s still prepared to earn his crust by being the support act. I’m a big fan of one man and his guitar when it’s done well. Billy Bragg, Tim Smith, and the full on Rock n’ 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. ‘Peggy Sang the Blues’ 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, “somebody told me that music with guitars was going out of fashion, the shit wasn’t fashionable when I fell in love, if the hipsters are wrong, why should I give a fuck!” Like Blood or Whiskey before him, he gets a little audience participation going for ‘I still believe’ 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 it’s another example of some great sing along lyrics. “I won’t sit down, and I won’t shut up, and most of all I won’t grow up”.

Tonight Turner mostly impresses, and only occasionally misses, and that maybe just down to not wanting to hear quieter numbers. Obviously an act’s 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 O’ Connor’s version of the ‘Foggy Dew’ blasts over the PA. The band burst on with ‘The Boys are Back’, 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 ‘Boys’ is punctuated with cries to “C’mon Dublin!”

 

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 they’re playing an over 18s venue.

They’re 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 ‘Battle Call is rambunctious,’ Sunshine Highway’ is melodic, and has a glam/early seventies punk rock feel to it. The crowd are totally pumped, and a blast of ‘The Gang All Here’ is totally fitting. Ken’s 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, “You’re too kind…God Bless Punk Rock”.

‘Rose Tatoo’ is another new track, one where the Pogues influence is strong. They wear their influence on their sleeves again with their version of the ‘Irish Rover’, 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 McGowan’s lesser known earlier material and the Nip’s ‘Vengeance’, 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 ‘Don’t tear us apart’, 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 ‘Going Out in Style’. 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 wasn’t aware there was so many. A female Bostonite is invited on stage to sing ‘The Dirty Glass’, for encouragement she’s told not to worry, “we keep on screwing it up…17 years and the still keep coming back.” She does a fine job, her mic is a bit low, but the sound quality improves through the duration. ‘Get Up’ has that early 70s guitar, again, and a gutsy and rough vocal They trample with animated brilliance through ‘Jimmy Collins Wake’, the title track of the aforementioned ‘Going Out in Style’ and ‘Broken Hymns’. Blood or Whiskey and Frank are passionately thanked for their support, and the roof is blown for The Warrior Code’s ‘Shipping up to Boston’, surely one of the greatest party songs committed to record. Eton boy Frank Turner joins them on stage for the socialist leaning ‘Workers Song’ and it closes the set.

They don’t delay returning for the encore, kicking off with a rattling run-through of ‘Barroom Hero’. ‘Fields of Athenry’ is included in the final few songs. It’s played to death here, we hear sped up versions at weddings, you learn it at school, and it’s sung at football games. You’d be hard set to find people in Ireland who are not sick to death of listening to it. Dropkick’s attempt to revamp isn’t completely successful and putting their own stamp on traditional songs is not something that always works for them. It’s an aspect of the Dropkick Murphys that can grate. There are plenty of songs in their repertoire I’d have preferred to hear before it, although judging by the reaction, I’m 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 ‘Skinhead on the MTBA.’ The now customary invitation to the audience to join them on stage always brings a smile, it’s girls only first, but by the end of the night, and a risible rendition of ACDC’s ‘TNT’, it’s lads and lassies, and the stage is wedged. It’s 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. They’re 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.

Blood Or Whisky’s Website.

Frank Turner’s Website.

Dropkick Murphys Website.

All words by Ray Burke. More of Ray’s Louder Than War writing can be found at his author archive here

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