Review: Dropkick Murphys bring a wicked Boston party to Jannus Live in St. Petersburg
It's hard to say exactly when, where and how this whole Boston pop cultural renaissance actually got started. One thing's for certain, though: Few artists have benefitted more from it than Dropkick Murphys.
Movies? Sure, they did the main song in The Departed. Sports? Jonathan Papelbon and Live at Fenway Park, thank you very much. And music? Well, if they're not the biggest Boston band around these days, they're at least the band most upfront about wearing their Bostonness on their sleeves.
That Bostonness travels. Boy, does it ever. Both onstage and off, Dropkick Murphys’ sold-out show in St. Petersburg Sunday night show probably set a Jannus Live record for chunky bald men in thin beards and flat-topped newsboy caps. It probably will not surprise you to learn that within the first half-hour, a beefy nor'easterner saw me taking notes and proceeded to tell me about his distant connection to notorious Boston gangster Whitey Bulger. This, I suppose, is what passes for small talk at a Dropkick Murphys concert.
As Celtic punk bands go, Dropkick Murphys may not have the anarchic rage of Flogging Molly, but what they do have is a palpable man-of-the-peopleness. It begins with tracksuited lead singer Al Barr, who seemingly pent half the show in the photo pit, face to face with the crowd, and the other half in a puncher's crouch, bobbing like a butterfly. His attitude was infectious on the feisty Prisoner’s Song, from new album Signed and Sealed in Blood, and the sea shanty Johnny, I Hardly Knew Ya.
Though it is not in the Dropkicks’ nature to tone things down, on the occasions that they did – such as a relatively acoustic version of Worker’s Song and a folksy Out of Our Heads – the concert was that much the better for it. Anytime an acoustic guitar, accordion or bagpipe got the chance to shine through, it was a reminder why Celtic punk can be so much fun in the first place.
One quibble, and it's a biggie: rather than, y'know, actually SING their biggest hit, I'm Shipping Up to Boston. Is team they “challenged” the audience to sing it for them. This happened earlier in my day too, when the Goo Goo Dolls chose to let the crowd sing part of Slide for them at Busch Gardens. Lame, I say. We're paying you, guys, not the other way around. We want to hear you sing your music. If our version of I’m Shipping Up to Boston was so great, we'd have Marty Scorsese on speed dial.
That said, drop kick Murphy's made up for it with a dynamic encore that featured singer-bassist Ken Casey descending to the crowd and inviting half the ladies in the venue onstage during Kiss Me. Then it was time for a house-crushing rendition of AC/DC’s TNT. With his flat cap pulled low, damn if Barr didn’t look just a smidge like Brian Johnson.
Just goes to show you that when they set their minds to it, Bostonians still know how to throw a pretty wicked party.
-- Jay Cridlin, tbt*