February 26, 2013
House of Blues - Dallas
Dallas, TX USA
Review by David Huff
Photos by Crystal Prather
Geared Up for Conquering Heroes
I have to admit that sometimes I get bored going to concerts. Then again, there are shows that surprise me, open my eyes and make it abundantly clear I'm extremely lucky to be in the position I'm in. One such moment of clarity came at the Dropkick Murphys performance at the House of Blues in Dallas.
There are certain artists you enjoying seeing live simply because you love the music. And then there are those unique acts where participating in the show is just as exciting as the group itself. The Dropkicks are the latter. There's something to be said about a group that can build up the energy in a crowd, knowing it will explode the moment they walk out on stage. And trust me, the Dropkick Murphys are all about anticipation, and to an even larger extent, crowd participation as well.
My previous experience with this band had been limited to a series of great photos taken by Jam photographer Vernon Gowdy at a Dropkick concert in 2011 at the Diamond Ballroom in Oklahoma City. I saw his pictures and decided to inquire about an interview. From the images I saw, this group just had that "it" factor. My instincts proved to be right. I spent 45 minutes on the phone with singer Al Barr that was quite insightful. The subsequent story equaled the amazing images that accompanied the story (if you're a Dropkick fan, you should check it out in the Jam archives). My point to this build-up is I had yet to see this band perform in a live setting. I really didn't know what to expect once I arrived at the House of Blues. However, observing this anxious crowd mill about before the headliners hit the stage told me everything I needed to know. It was just a matter of time before angst turned into a rowdy.
Like I said, this capacity crowd was geared up for their conquering heroes of might and magic way before they hit the stage just before 10 PM. You can thank openers Old Man Markley for that. While the DM merchandise was being gobbled up by eager fans outside the doors leading into the hall itself, OMM was having its way with the audience onstage. There was even evidence outside the House of Blues that this seven-piece bunch from Los Angeles was going to be something special. Their touring vehicle parked out back was a converted school bus that looked like it had been taken off the set of The Partridge Family a long time ago. Yep, this band oozed cool before they even played one note.
The frenetic energy of Old Man Markley was matched by the reactions of the assembled masses before them. No one chanted "Dropkick Murphys" during their show. They were too busy dancing and swinging around as they cheered the band's take on Appalachian style music. It was quite infectious. So was the array of instruments this group performed throughout their 40-minute set. Their arsenal of musical artillery included a stand-up bass in a washtub, a banjo played like a lead guitar, washboard, pennywhistle, autoharp, fiddle player, acoustic guitar and a great blend of vocals that sounded incredible with or without the accompanying music. This band definitely has a future.
After a brief intermission to allow fans to reload on alcohol, or relieve themselves for the chaos about to ensure, the lights finally went down. The roar of the crowd however, was immediately muted by a quaint Irish that was piped in over the loud speakers. The singing of some mysterious Irish lass not only seduced this raucous crowd, it produced an eerie calm as well. As the voice faded off into the distance, the Murphys walked on stage as the audience roared to life. Then all hell broke loose as the band kicked off the festivities with "The Boys Are Back" from their new album released at the beginning of the year, Signed and Sealed in Blood. Al Barr wasted little time getting the crowd into the mix. He walked out onto a small platform in front of the stage and literally became one with his people.
Let me tell you, it can be quite exhausting watching the Dropkicks perform. This band does not believe in wasting any time talking between songs. They rattled off nine tunes in a row before they actually paused to take maybe a 30 to 45 second break before launching into another DM track. The nonstop action on stage is matched by the frenzied reaction from fans below. If you were part of the few hundred die-hards packed like sardines in the front of the stage, you got one heck of a cardio workout.
I don't care how much beer or adult beverage you consumed before the show either. By the end of the night, you were sober as a judge because you had virtually sweated all the alcohol out of your system. Maybe that's the secret to the band's success. A DM crowd most likely will be in a celebratory mood before the boys hit the stage. When they leave it 90 minutes later, however, their fans will be sobered up for the drive home. Probably hungry too! You are going to burn a lot of calories at this show whether you know it going in or not.
Seriously, physical activity is mandatory of a Dropkick Murphys' crowd. There was fist pumping, pogo jumping and crowd surfing that added to the unabashed joy emanating from fans. I couldn't understand one word singer Al Barr, or guitarist Ken Casey, sang throughout the night. That didn't mean this audience was clueless. I was amazed that a large portion of this audience was singing along to all the tunes, new and old. By the way, if you happen to turn 21 on any of the band's tour stops this year, by all means let everyone around you know you're celebrating the special event Dropkick Murphys style. You won't have to purchase a drink the rest of the night.
Like I mentioned earlier, this band doesn't believe in wasting any time on stage talking between songs. I suspect the group stays in perpetual motion for fear they might actually fall over from exhaustion if they stopped. This bunch moved at breakneck speed to cram their 26-song set list into an hour and a half of sheer pandemonium. By the way, a third of the songs performed this evening were from the just released album. No one complained. If fans didn't know the words to the new tracks, they made up their own. As long as the audience was receiving regular doses of familiar tunes, all were happy in the land of Murphy.
You rarely come across acts that make you feel as though you're a part of the band from beginning to end. The Dropkick Murphys have perfected that sensation. They know what their audience wants and they deliver it in spades. This band bills itself is billed as a Celtic punk band. I'd say ‘goodwill ambassadors to Boston' is more apropos. It doesn't really matter. This infectious music is meant to get you singing, not swinging in a mosh pit. It's a happy marriage between artist and fan that will bond the two until they renew their vows again this time next year.