Tonight, The Olympia is the home of contrast. The ornate balustrades are dripping with the sweat of bouncing, spiky haired punks and incessant stage divers. The theatrical backdrop features faux stain glass windows and a silhouetted, almost symbolic bagpipe player, while front centre is dominated by marauding punk rockers leaping about like this is their last ever show, not just the last of this tour. There’s a hint of the traditional amongst the music: the same flickering, slightly comic take on traditional Irish folk that’s inherent in the entire genre of celtic punk. It sees bands like tonight’s stars – Dropkick Murphys – transform meaningful, works of Irish musical history like -The Fields of Athenry’ into energetic anthems that not only retain their character, but are arguably all the more interesting for it.
The shambolic side of the Dropkick Murphys is half the fun of a night like tonight. Much like a particularly raucous melodic punk band, the local twist on their brand of -shamrock and roll’ blends that essential recognition factor with a spattering of their own pseudo-Irish rock tracks like the sanity-stretching -Spicy McHaggis Jig’ and traditional home-town opener -For Boston’. It’s the other goings on stage-front, though, that make Dropkick Murphys such a compelling live act.
Dropkicks are not so much musicians (though there’s no denying they can play) as performers. The members take turns entertaining the crowd, gurning their way through sets of lyrics that have developed a distinctly Irish twang despite their Bostonian heritage. They spend time in the crowd, salute the audience, thank their friends and abuse the security for turfing out crowd surfers. It’s a riotous, charismatic show that puts the band’s not insubstantial albums to shame, and makes the Olympia seem like the most natural -sweaty basement’ venue in the world.
It’s rare for State to hail a performance in which we sometimes struggle to make out the tracks, but the celebratory, super-speed style Dropkick Murphys play with makes them difficult to grasp. We pick out covers of Brendan Behan’s -The Auld Triangle’ and -Flannigan’s Ball’ alongside Murphys classics like -The Fortunes Of War’ and -Forever’, all of which pass at a pace so frightening that it’s some achievement that the band manage to hang around for a full hour and a half. Over the course of it they gain an ever more energetic audience, in part as Dropkick Murphys seem to be the perfect drinking music.
Having invited a few dozen women on stage to dance right before the close, The Murphys repeat the trick with the lads during the encore, a move that sees the Olympia stage transformed into a shambolic most pit and security running around the venue wondering who to remove first. Front man Al Barr reappears in only tricolor boxer shorts, the various guitarists find themselves hunting for safe space on top of the speaker stacks and the Bostonians finish their tour with a full-blown fist-pumping riot. Now, if only we can get them to give up their home-town tradition and head over here for St Patrick’s’¦
Photos: Kieran Frost
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