It must be said, Dublin’s Vicar St is one of the best venues I’ve been to: a purpose built modern theatre, it is designed in such a way that it can accommodate everything from comedy to heavy metal with ease. I’ve been to it on several occasions over the past year, and one thing I’ve always noticed is that, no matter where you are sitting/standing in the auditorium, the acoustics and sound have always been nigh on perfect. It is one of a handful of excellent venues in the Irish capital, the virtual glut of which must have many other cities hanging their heads in shame and envy…
My latest foray south of the border to this fine venue was to catch Irish/American folk/hardcore punksters Dropkick Murphys, to break my live ‘duck’ with the band. While the politics of some of their material is sometimes the antithesis of my own background, they also address themes with which I can heartily identify, such as the rights of the working classes and a ‘work hard, party hard’ ethos, and I’ve always been a fan (although I’ll have to admit to not uttering the fact too loudly in my particular neighbourhood!).
Having decided to stay in the pub ‘round the corner to watch Leinster triumphing over Llanelli Scarlets in a hard-fought Heineken Cup game seemed to be the better option, as opening act Hudson Taylor by all accounts were dire – a sort of pretty boy Irish version of The Proclaimers, but without the latter’s cheeky charm.
Frank Turner seems a bit diminutive on the large Vicar St stage, especially as he is dwarved by the covered drum riser behind him, but he quickly makes both it and the audience his own. The easiest comparison to draw with Turner is to Billy Bragg, but less edgy and definitely a lot less political – Frank reserves much of his ire for the ‘system’ of the music business than that of ‘the man’. His songs, delivered solely on acoustic guitar, are clever and punchy, easily filling the arena with their warmth, while the man himself is easy-going, amenable and charming, interacting with the fans on their level and with a smooth wit – I genuinely laughed out loud at his ‘air harmonica’ playalong.
Turner has no sooner quit the stage than the chants of “let’s go Murphys” fill the room, which is filled with a healthy crossover mix of crusties, punks, folksters and metal heads, all brought together by the DKMs all-encpompassing appeal. And the assembled mass doesn’t have long to wait to “go”, as the Boston seven-piece rip into ‘The Boys Are Back’ (also the lead off track from their just-released eighth album, ‘Signed And Sealed In Blood’), a hugely danceable mix of folk and punk that quickly has the whole room dancing – and the first crowd surfers being angled in the general direction of the space.
With Al Barr and Ken Casey sharing the lead vocals – the former delivering the hardcore punkishness of the likes of ‘Bastards On Parade’, with the latter not only handling the more melodic numbers but also the vast majority of the spoken interaction with the crowd – and Jeff DaRosa switching effortlessly between guitar, mandolin, banjo and even bouzouki, what follows is biggest punk rock ceilidh on this or any other side of the Atlantic….
Mixing traditional tunes, such as an anarchic punk-fuelled ‘Irish Rover’, ‘Johnny Comes Marching Home’ and second encore ‘The Fields Of Athenry’, with originals, such as perennial classics like ‘Stand Up And Fight’, ‘Which Side Are You On’, ‘Boys On The Docks’ and the roof-lifting ‘I’m Shipping Up To Boston’ and new favourites such as ‘Jimmy Collins’ Wake’ and the hauntingly catchy ‘Rose Tattoo’, the Murphys tear through 27 songs in around 90 minutes – “and I guarantee that if you come back tomorrow 18 of ‘em will be different”, promises Casey, referring to the following evening’s second date in the same venue.
Security quickly give up dealing with the almost incessant wave of surfers, choosing to push them back whence they came rather than negotiate them into the pit – which is just as well, as the encore heralds the band inviting a mass stage invasion: first of all, it’s the turn of the women to jig and jive along to ‘End Of The Night’ and then it’s all comers for a riotous cover of ‘Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap’: hallway through the latter, there are so many people on stage that DaRosa and fellow guitarist Tim Brennan are forced to climb their cabs to escape the mayhem, while Casey and piper Scruffy Murphy are all but lost in the melee.
It may not be traditional Planet Mosh fare, but the DKM’s brand of ‘trad punk’ is energetic and infectious, and their live shows definitely are a bloody good night out (if you manage to avoid getting knocked unconscious by the flying DMs!). And having seen The Pogues several times in my home town of Belfast, this visit south of the border to witness the successors to their crown showed that the pupils could teach the masters a thing or two!
‘Signed And Sealed In Blood’ is out now via the band’s own Born And Bred Records (see below). Read our review at http://planetmosh.com/the-dropkick-murphys-signed-and-sealed-in-blood/
The Dropkick Murphys tour continues as follows:
Tuesday January 15th – HMV Ritz, Manchester
Wednesday January 16th – Barrowlands, Glasgow
Thursday January 17th – Rock City, Nottingham
Friday January 18th / Saturday January 19th – HMV Forum, London
Visit the Dropkick Murphys official website at http://www.dropkickmurphys.com/
Photographs by Steve Dempsey / Down The Barrel Photography: http://www.facebook.com/DownTheBarrel