There is a moment before every punk show, right before the headliner goes on, when stillness takes hold. The soon-to-be kings of the pit crack their necks, people settle into their cushy seats on the balcony and boyfriends hug onto their girlfriends just a little more tightly while they reconsider if this was a smart choice for a date.
Last night the silence at Club Nokia was broken by the sharp wail of a bagpipe, as Dropkick Murphys strode onstage to their song “For Boston,” a cover of Boston College’s fight song – a fitting opener, as it had been only two days since the attack on the band’s hometown at the Boston Marathon. They quickly followed up with “The Boys Are Back” off their latest album “Signed and Sealed In Blood.”
Just as the mosh pit was hitting full rotation and becoming a frenzy of Converse, scally caps and plaid, Ken Casey raised a hand to silence the crowd.
The night then took a turn for the somber, as the bassist and singer took a moment to express appreciation for the charity their California fan base had already expressed in donations for the victims of Monday’s bombing.
“I know the father of the 8-year-old who was killed, so it hits close to home,” Casey said.
As a memorial and tribute, the band played ”Your Spirit’s Alive” off 2005’s “The Warrior’s Code,” then took a vote by applause-o-meter to determine whether to play fan favorite “Fields of Athenry” or a “really unprepared” cover of “Amazing Grace.” The latter won the vote and the amps were turned down as the crowd was encouraged to sing along. “Even you churchless heathens gotta know the first verse,” yelled Casey as bagpiper Josh “Scruffy” Wallace set into a slow, lonesome cover of the classic hymn that slowly built into a full punk cover, frenzied and fast.
The band seamlessly wove both uppers and downers into their set like a musical Hunter S. Thompson, holding the crowd at breath at one moment with the sounds of acoustic guitars and mandolins, then revving it back up with blaring distortion and throat tearing vocals by frontman Al Barr.
The night’s highlight however came late in the set with “Shipping Up to Boston,” possibly the band’s most famous and notable song. The track was featured in Martin Scorsese’s 2006 Academy Award-winning film “The Departed,” and it served as a break of sorts for the vocalists, who were unable to be heard over the crowd as they screamed along with every word.
In keeping with tradition, the band invited the ladies in the crowd to join them onstage as they played their first encore “End of the Night,” which also closes their 2013 release.
The band wasn’t done though. Sensing that no one was ready to go home, they continued with two more encores: “Skinhead on the MBTA” and a cover of California natives The Standells’ “Dirty Water,” an ode to Boston.
As if in a giant exhale, the pit floor dispersed, and the chanting of “Boston” could be heard trailing into the night.
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