Strange as it may sound, my introduction to the Dropkick Murphys' unique meshing of punk rock, proletarian spirit and bagpipes was through this live recording of one their epic St. Patrick's Day shows. Oh, and what an introduction it was. A large part of the Dropkicks' charm is their exuberance, their energy and their dedication to their fans. All of these are evident in their live performance, and even if some of the lyrics are a little garbled, the experience is addicting.
From the intro of rabid fans (raised on the Curse of the Bambino - this is
a Boston band & concert) chanting "Let's go Murphys!" like bleacher bums, the album is a non-stop smorgasboard of loud guitars, fast beats and, of course, bagpipes. A bagpipe solo precedes the album's opener "For Boston" and the fan's reaction is evident. The rowdy and loyal fan base is very evident, as their off-key sing-a-longs are just as enjoyable as the band's...well, let's just say "antics." Certainly not the most musically proficient band (bagpiper Spicy McHaggis is probably the only one who can play anything complex), bold and clever lyrics, untamed energy and lots of crowd support more than compensate for the simplistic riffs.
The track list is long, so I won't do a song-by-song review, but suffice to say that the whole album is impressive. "For Boston" is a rowdy anthem that anyone from Beantown (like me!) can't help but shout along to. Most of the Dropkicks' hits are included in the twenty six song set, including "Boys on the Docks," "Rocky Road to Dublin," "Forever" and "Barroom Hero," The silly and irreverant "Spicy McHaggis Jig" is obviously a crowd favorite, and provides a nice respite from working class anthems and poor shmuck love songs. Two of the more intriguing tracks are "Finnegan's Wake" and "Amazing Grace" - you haven't heard a traditional Irish folk song or a classical favorite until you've heard them done at breakneck pace with distorted power chords and shouted vocals.
A few covers are also included, one of the theme for hometown hockey team Boston Bruins, one of CCR's "Fortunate Son" and one of The Standells' Boston anthem "Dirty Water." Perhaps the most interesting song is "John Law", which is prefaced by the explanation "We wrote this song about good cops who don't abuse their power...'cause in the punk world, EVERYONE writes a song about hating cops, and some of them are f***ing good s***s." Now that's something you don't hear everyday, but it fits with the Dropkicks' social philosophy, which is present throughout this concert. That is, that the working class needs to stick together, including the police, and soldier on towards a better tomorrow.
This is the attitude that the Murphys show towards their fans too: staying on the same level, not putting on airs, and providing what services they can. One of the best moments on this album is when one Murphys fan who asked the band a favor is brought up to the mic to propose to his girlfriend (for her answer, you'll have to buy the album :P), followed by bassist/singer Ken Casey's announcement that he is an Internet certified Reverend who can perform marriages should any fans require his services.
As a whole, Live on St. Patrick's Day
rocks from end to end, and is steeped in all the ethos that a punk purist could desire. Effectively capturing the rambunctious nature of Dropkick Murphys concerts, as well as the loyalty of their fans and, if I may say, the incredible faith and energy of the good people of Boston. If nothing else, the Dropkick Murphys love their home town - "For Boston, for Boston, thy glory is our own!"