Review: Dropkick Murphys at the House of Blues | March 16, 2010

Dropkick Murphys perform "The Wild Rover"

On the eve of St. Patty's, when the streets of Boston run green with beer, debauchery, and Irish pride, the Murphys raged for a sold-out, psychotically amped-up crowd at the HoB. A sea of shamrock green -- shirts, Mardi Gras beads, wigs, and one particularly festive mohawk -- surged throughout the venue Tuesday night, as the Murphys did what they do best: put on a kick-ass, raw-boned rock show.

The show opened in total darkness with the haunting moan of bagpipes (played as ever by Scruffy Wallace, the manliest dude to ever don a skirt), which set the audience into an almost reverential moment of quiet before the lights flashed on and the Murphys tore silence asunder with little fanfare. Onstage, young girls in brightly colored Irish step-dancing costumes hopped and jigged, while beer and sweat flew in the circle pit as would-be crowd surfers momentarily caught air before crashing back into the melee. (I think everyone was a bit too soused to execute any truly successful mosh maneuvers.) Die-hard Dropkicks fans stomped and howled at floor level, and Ken Casey and Al Barr (in his signature uniform of black tee and peg-leg pants) shouted right back, backdropped by huge tapestries, including a grainy photo of Prohibition-era picketers holding signs reading "We Want Beer."

When Casey roared the opening lines to "Johnny, I Hardly Knew Ya," everyone in the house joined in on the chorus, howling "hurroo, hurroo" with what felt a little like love. There were no fair-weather fans in the room. Next to me, a guy with a buzzed head and grizzled beard proceeded to make out furiously with his girlfriend in what might have been a Pavlovian response to the song. A middle-aged couple screamed right along with the group of Dropkick-T-shirt-wearing teens next to them. (For the record, I'd really like to declare shenanigans on wearing the shirt of the band you're going to see.) When Stephanie Dougherty of Deadly Sins joined the Murphy's onstage for a performance of "The Dirty Glass," it almost brought down the house.

During "Fields of Athenry" (a song that Casey dedicated to his grandma under threat of being "strung up by his heels" lest he forget), a 6-foot-5 behemoth planted himself like a tree in front of me and swayed unsteadily in time. Luckily, the opening chords to "Tessie" sent him hurtling back into the vortex of bodies behind me. For their last song -- a raucous "Kiss Me, I'm Shitfaced" -- the band invited any willing ladies to come onstage and shake what they were working with. There were a lot of willing ladies. As Barr rasped, "There's a line of chicks waiting for their chance," the teeming crowd of chicks already given theirs bounced and shimmied in time. One particularly excited girl in a very tiny pink number rocked out so hard, the straps of her dress slipped off her shoulders and fell to waist level. Nobody was complaining.

After the band exited the stage, the crowd took up a chant of "Murphys! Murphys!" When that incantation didn't immediately pull the band back onstage, they tried "Yankees suck!" That did it. The Dropkicks stomped back onstage and broke into "Dirty Water" to a roar of approval. During the third, and final, encore song of the hour-and-a-half long show ("Skinhead on the MBTA"), it was the male audience members' turn to get onstage and party with the band. Meanwhile, Pink Dress somehow snuck her way into the throng of dudes, dancing and jiggling like a one-woman show in the midst of all that testosterone-soaked headbanging and thrashing. Before bidding the HoB farewell (briefly -- they'd be back the next night), they took a moment to wish us a "fucking good St. Patty's Day!" And same to you, sirs.

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