If there’s one thing I’ve come to look forward to every March, it’s celebrating St. Patrick’s day a little early, but definitely in style with a show from the Celtic punk rockers of Dropkick Murphys. This year was extra special, as the Boston natives are out on tour commemorating their 20 Year Anniversary.
Doors to The Fillmore in Charlotte, NC opened at 7:00 P.M. on March 3rd, giving fans plenty of time to filter in before the opening acts Darkbuster and Tiger Army even went on. It was hard to ignore the crowd anticipation as 10:00 rolled around and a curtain was still draped over the stage. Anxious fans stomped their feet in unison while shouting, “Let’s go Murphys!” until the lights dimmed and the cheers were answered with a video memoriam of clips highlighting moments throughout Dropkick Murphy’s 20 year career.
Following the video clip, the mild opening lyrics of “When on the road to sweet Athy, Hurroo, Hurroo…” rang through the venue. Loyalists immediately recognized the song, and the curtain finally dropped as the band broke into the upbeat verses of “Johnny, I Hardly Knew Ya”. Vocalist Al Barr charged to the front of the stage, ready to fist bump and interact with every fan from the get go. The energy flowed into the following song “Out Of Our Heads,” from Dropkick Murphy’s latest and most recent 2013 album SIGNED and SEALED in BLOOD.
As a frequent show-goer, I have a habit of looking up setlists before any show I plan on attending. With my knowledge of the previous night’s setlist in mind, I was caught off guard upon hearing my personal favorite Dropkick Murphys song, “Rose Tattoo” begin playing for song three, instead of the expected “Walk Away”. It seems like common routine for bands has become sticking with the same setlist for the majority of a tour, so I was pleasantly surprised to discover Dropkick Murphys stuck to punk roots of spontaneity to make the show unique and memorable for every stop on the tour.
Given their discography of eight studio albums, I probably shouldn’t have been shocked, but I seem to always forget exactly how many recognizable songs Dropkick Murphys have. They easily compiled a smattering of twenty some odd songs, including original fan favorites such as “The State of Massachusetts” and “The Boys Are Back,” mixed in with a variety of covers, such as “21 Guitar Salute” by The Press and “Career Opportunities” by The Clash. Additionally, they mixed it up with a short section of acoustic songs, highlighted by the inclusion of a new and not yet recorded song titled “Sandlot”.
It became apparent the show was drawing to a close when the legendary song from The Departed, “I’m Shipping Up To Boston” was played. The band slipped off stage for a few minutes, but quickly returned and as has become a Dropkick Murphy’s tradition, they invited all the females on stage for an encore performance of “Kiss Me, I’m Shitfaced.” The ladies remained on stage and other fans joined as the band burst into “Skinhead on the MBTA”. Bassist and vocalist Ken Casey provided extra entertainment by dancing on stage with a few fans, including a shared moment with an unmissable guy sporting a huge mohawk.
Finally, the somber sounds of Sam Cooke’s “Having a Party” played as the gaggle of fans were escorted from the stage and began filtering out of the venue. The 20th Anniversary tour provided a great mix and showcase of so many memories over the years. According to Casey, the band started on a bet in 1996 but he added, “After twenty years, we are more grateful and enthusiastic than ever… The best is yet to come!” With that said… the rest of us can be hopeful for 20 years more!