Celtic punk favorites Dropkick Murphys are celebrating their 20th anniversary in 2016 and on Mar. 2nd, the band brought that party to Nashville’s Marathon Music Works. Playing to a sold out crowd, Dropkick Murphys delivered a nearly two hour set of favorites from throughout their careers, along with some select covers and a preview of new material set to be recorded later this year.
For many bands, an anniversary tour means dragging out some kind of special gimmick like performing a single album in its entirety or bringing back old members for a one-off reunion. But that wasn’t the case with Dropkick Murphys. True to their blue collar roots, Boston’s favorite sons celebrated their milestone with the kind of hard work and high energy that has brought them the success to remain a draw 20 years in. Outside of a video before the performance that detailed the history of the band and a few random jokes about getting old, the band’s anniversary was barely mentioned. Dropkick Murphys has never been a band to rely on gimmicks and their 20th anniversary kept to that script, delivering one fan favorite after the other to a crowd that hung on every word.
After the video, the curtain remained up with founding member and bassist Ken Casey delivering the first verse of the band’s re-working of the classic “Johnny, I Hardly Knew Ye” in silhouette before the curtain dropped and the band kicked into full gear. From there, the band hardly let the audience catch their breaths, bringing hits like “Flanigan’s Ball” and “Surrender” before slowing it down a bit with an acoustic interlude that included fan favorite ballad “Forever”, as well as “The Gang’s All Here”, and a preview of a new song called “Sandlot” that Casey told the audience would be recorded when the band entered the studio in the summer to record the follow up to 2013’s “Signed and Sealed in Blood”.
Dropkick Murphys closed out the main set with their biggest hit, “Shipping Up to Boston”, before returning for a lengthy encore. For the sing-along “Kiss Me, I’m Shitfaced”, Casey invited the ladies in the audience to join them on stage and they obliged in force. As “Kiss Me” transitioned into “Skinhead on the MBTA”, the floodgates opened and soon the band was sharing the stage with audience members of both sexes. In deference to the party on stage, the band closed out the night with a cover of an artist not usually in a punk act’s library, Sam Cooke, whose hit “Having a Party” was a fitting send-off.
But Dropkick Murphys weren’t going it along at Marathon Music Works. Their two supporting acts held their own by showing off two other sub-genres of punk rock. Boston’s Darkbuster kicked off the show with a reggae-tinged thirty minute set that impressed those who arrived early. Following up Darkbuster was Tiger Army, a band that is also celebrating twenty years in 2016. With buzzed haircuts, button down shirts, and a giant upright bass, fans in Music City could be forgiven for mistaking Tiger Army with an old-time country band when they took the stage, but that mistake was corrected as soon as the band launched into the kind of hyperkinetic psychobilly fury that has made founding member Nick 13 and his band a popular draw for two decades.
Dropkick Murphys’ 20th Anniversary tour will continue through St. Patrick’s Day week, where they will play six shows in five days in their hometown of Boston. You can see a full list of tour dates here.