Dropkick Murphys is one of those bands that you just can’t help loving. Their brand of blue collar, Celtic punk that exemplifies the working man in a way not seen since early Springsteen, blew through the House of Blues for a two-night stint last week. As they have in past years the band, celebrating its 20th anniversary, started their annual St. Patrick’s Day tour here in Cleveland. Supported by Tiger Army and Darkbuster, the shows lasted a brisk three hours and played to sold-out crowds on both occasions.
Frontman Al Barr is a force of life. He runs onstage prior to the first tune and keeps up that intensity until the encore. Ken Casey, the band’s founder, shares lead vocal duties and the two of them spar each night from tune to tune. Kicking off the night with “Johnny, I Hardly Knew Ya,” the Irish ditty turned into a rampaging theme for the balance of the show. Their four-song encore, utilizing “Kiss Me, I’m Shitfaced” as a self-aggrandizing anthem, played well to the ladies who stormed the stage for a few moments with the band.
There’s a bit of frustration covering a DKM show because the pit is divided into two parts by a riser that allows Barr to hop onto a stage extension and get intimate with the crowd. It restricts a photographer’s movement and pins ya down into one corner of the pit; the security catching crowd surfers adds to that element (nothing like being “in the zone” and getting kicked in the back of the head by an overzealous vodka-and-red-bull fueled surfer). However, when the band cuts into “Rose Tattoo” all is quickly forgiven.
These guys are always a high octane rush and never leave a kilt-wearing crowd disappointed. Dropkick Murphys run hard; they tour about 50 weeks a year and cover a lot of real estate in just the four-week St. Patty’s Day run-up, culminating in a series of shows in the Boston area right before and on St. Patrick’s Day. On top of it all, they’re a really good group of guys. Casey is Boston proud and has started The Claddagh Fund, benefiting the “most vulnerable individuals in our communities.”