It seems that Brixton Academy has become the loyal home for the Dropkick Murphys over the years. The house of residence when the rowdy Irish-Bostonian gang come on their UK tour, and when they touch down in London town, this is where the party will always be held. A sold out crowd of punk rockers, Irish folk purists, and lovers of all music that makes you want to jig, dance, party, and sing your heart out to. It really is of no surprise that tonight’s show is also sold out (and has been for quite a while now), but not just because of the headline appearance of Boston’s favourite sons, but because of the strength of the quite frankly awesome support lineup too.
Opening tonight’s festivities are London’s hometown heroes Skinny Lister. A sweet and jovial concoction of heartfelt folk punk along the lines of The Clash and Gogol Bordello, but with a slight hint of rockabilly/ psychobilly, these guys are something special in the making. Coming on stage with smiles on their faces wider than the horizon, and playing with every ounce of heart and soul which more than rubs off well with the crowd, they own this stage like it is their own headline show. They incite the crowd into a massive dancing frenzy, and even at one point hand out a huge scrumpy jug into the crowd full of alcohol, which is aptly passed around and even politely handed back to them! But when Skinny Lister are armed with incredibly catchy and infectious songs like the feverish ‘This Is War‘ and the amazing ‘Trouble On Oxford Street‘, you cannot help but be pulled into their wondrous charm. As far as support slots go, this is just nothing short of incredible to say the very least. Skinny Lister are something special, and it won’t be long until the rest of the world finally catches up.
That was always going to be a particularly tough act to follow up, but Boston’s very own Slapshot manage to hold their own and then some considering they are a pure hardcore punk band. This may seem an unlikely addition to a lineup for some, but Slapshot are certified legends and veterans in the hardcore scene, so this is actually real nice to see them exposed to a wider audience that may not have heard them before. But as with all hardcore bands… the only real problem is the barriers – which is the the sheer antithesis of any hardcore show. But having to make do with what they have, the band plough through a vicious set of old school hardcore punk slobber knockers. But even more endearing was seeing how up for it the crowd got as their set progressed. At one point the first two parts of the standing section became an all out warzone, and this maintained all the way until the very end of their set. Whilst it was always going to be difficult for Slapshot to play shows like these, one thing that was more than certain is that you cannot teach old dogs new tricks – but they can certainly adapt in their environment, and make their bark and their bite heard and felt wide and far. A sterling effort and performance by all accounts.
Now admittedly, yours truly had a bit of a concern in the lead up to Dropkick Murphy‘s show this evening. He had heard their new album 11 Short Stories Of Pain And Glory a couple of weeks back, and to be quite honest was not entirely blown away by it. Something felt like it was missing… whilst the stories were heartfelt, there was just that something lacking in the music which he couldn’t quite pinpoint. However, all of these doubts would soon be clarified and put to rest during their headline set tonight, as it became quite clear that these particular songs were built for the live environment on a quite frankly soul-stirring level.
Arriving to a hero’s welcome, Dropkick Murphys open up with ‘The Lonesome Boatman / Rebels With A Cause‘ which sends the crowd into a singing and dancing frenzy. But it isn’t until third song ‘The State Of Massachusetts‘ that the entire crowd left, right, and centre, explodes into sheer feel good mayhem. In fact the whole place just becomes one giant mosh pit and dance floor where the only people who were not getting involved were getting squashed due to having restricted room to move! But as a decent percentage of the Murphy’s catalogue is music you can certainly get extremely wild to, songs such as ‘The Warrior’s Code‘, ‘Going Out In Style‘, ‘Flannigan’s Ball‘, and ‘Your Spirit’s Alive‘ incite some of the most chaotic scenes on the dance floor all evening. At one point there was even a really touching tribute to the dearly departed punk legend Micky Fitz formerly of The Business, during their performance of ‘Sandlot‘. There was even a sly performance of the band’s legendary cover of ‘The Wild Rover‘, which had the whole crowd in arms and hollering every lyric at the top of their voices. But let us digress to the newer material that is being performed tonight. The songs which yours truly was a bit concerned about on record, came alive into their own when in the live environment. Songs such as ‘Blood‘, ‘First Class Loser‘, ‘Paying My Way‘, and the band’s rendition of Rodgers & Hammerstein‘s ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone‘, all become individual monsters of their own which really get a rapturous response to the point where the crowd threatens to sing the bloody roof of the academy!
However, it’s when they come back on to do the encore that the gig reaches a fever pitch. Coming back on to ‘The Boys Are Back‘ sends the crowd into a blitzkrieg, but of course, no encore could be quite the same without ‘Kiss Me I’m Shitfaced‘ – where the crowd invite the ladies on stage to have a nice little singalong and serenade with them. But having thought the night would end there, the band perform two more songs – ‘Skinhead On The MBTA‘, and ‘Until The Next Time‘ – which they invited as many people on stage to sing and dance with them one final time. It actually got to a point where this writer was actually so overwhelmed with emotion during the last song (possibly due to its open to interpretation meaning) that he actually nearly started crying his eyes out, and was dearly consoled with an arm around the shoulder and a pint by a jolly Irish chap who aptly said “It’s not goodbye kid, it’s only farewell until the next time!“.
At this point things started to make overwhelmingly perfect sense once again. Dropkick Murphys are a special band whose universal appeal only seems to get bigger and better as they mature with age. Any doubts that one had about their latest album, has now been put to rest. In fact upon listening again, yours truly bloody loves it. And to hear it in the live environment was something of beauty. Tonight’s performance was absolutely incredible, and what was evident that this is a band who are currently at a creative peak which they sounds more vital and important than ever before. This is arguably one of the best performances they have ever done on these shores, and all those in attendance would most likely agree that tonight meant just as much to them as it did to this writer. A truly spectacular performance.