A month before St. Patrick’s Day — as part of a tour that wraps up on the holiday in Boston — the Dropkick Murphys arrived in northern New Jersey on a cool Wednesday evening. Despite the show starting earlier than advertised, and a fire alarm resulting in a near-cancellation of the event, the night was an excellent mix of Irish folk songs and punk rock antics.
Larry and His Flask opened the evening with a blend of bluegrass, folk, and punk rock. Combining banjo, double bass, mandolin, harmonica, guitar, and varied percussion, the Oregon six-piece certainly entertained the crowd during their brief set with rowdy jams that seemed to belong in an interstate truckstop bar. An absolute blast not just to listen to but also to watch, Larry and His Flask are certainly worthy of a deeper look.
California natives Strung Out performed next. The band’s punk-meets-metal tunes were ferocious, with vocalist Jason Cruz pouring his heart into the performance. Unfortunately, the band sounded muddy, with it difficult to identify lyrics and individual riffs over the extremely loud bass and drums.
With a swell of bagpipes beginning “Cadence to Arms”, the Dropkick Murphys walked on stage and began a thirty-song onslaught that found the band digging into all six of their full-length albums. “Captain Kelly’s Kitchen” was an absolute blast, with the band and crowd singing in unison to the song’s traditional Irish chorus. “The State of Massachusetts” and “Johnny, I Hardly Knew Ya” (both from the band’s latest release, 2007’s The Meanest of Times) received excellent treatment.
Keeping things fairly recent, The Warrior’s Code lead-off track (“Your Spirit’s Alive”) and title-track went back to back before the band kicked into the traditional “Fighting 69th” from 1999’s The Gang’s All Here. “As One and “Buried Alive” went as planned, but during “Surrender” the power cut out and the entire venue went dark. After ten minutes passed, it looked like the show would be canceled when bassist Ken Casey stormed back on stage to start things back up with an impromptu performance of “Citizen CIA”.
Sing Loud, Sing Proud!‘s “Forever” was dedicated to longtime-fan and recently deceased Jimmy Birmingham. For “The Dirty Glass”, Deadly Sins’s frontwoman and (and touring Dropkick Murphys merch-girl) Stephanie Dougherty joined the band to perform her parts of the call-and-response ballad from Blackout. Singles “Sunshine Highway” and “Walk Away” received a warm response, but live staple “Heroes From Our Past” drove the crowd into a frenzy.
For “Kiss Me, I’m Shitfaced” the band invited every girl in the Wellmont Theater to hop the barrier and join the band, resulting in over one hundred girls of all ages on stage dancing and singing with the Murphys. Fan-favorite “Barroom Hero” cleared everyone off the stage, with vocalist Al Barr singing yet another song about a drunk Irishman.
Pleasing a good portion of the crowd who learned only of the Murphys through blockbuster film The Departed, “Shipping Up to Boston”‘s first few notes elicited an overwhelming roar. The band wrapped up with fiery performances of two of their oldest (and most loved) cuts, the traditional-but-adapted “Skinhead on the MBTA” and “Boys on the Docks”.
Cadence to Arms
Do or Die
Captain Kelly’s Kitchen
The State of Massachusetts
Johnny, I Hardly Knew Ya
Your Spirit’s Alive
The Warrior’s Code
Bastards on Parade
The Dirty Glass
Time to Go
Heroes From Our Past
Black Velvet Band
Far Away Coast
21 Guitar Salute (The Press cover)
Kiss Me I’m Shitfaced
Shipping Up to Boston
Skinhead on the MTBA
Boys on the Docks
Even with a temporary delay interrupting the Dropkick Murphys midway through the night, the show was still an incredible event. The Murphys certainly celebrate their entire discography, playing much of their 1998 debut side by side with newer songs. The Wellmont Theater’s sound left much to be desired, but the band’s sheer energy and intimacy with the crowd overcame that issue and left the sold-out Montclair, New Jersey, crowd completely satisfied by night’s end.