Thursday, February 16, 2012

Live Review: Dropkick Murphys, Glasgow Barrowlands, 11/02/2012

Everyone has a touchstone band - one that truly turned them onto music and thus changed their life forever - and for me, that band was Dropkick Murphys. First introduced through my dad back in 2005, that first listen to The Warrior's Code began a chain reaction which eventually led me to current favourites such as For Emma, Forever AgoThe Midnight Organ Fight and In The Aeroplane Over The Sea. My listening habits have changed almost beyond recognition along the way, but the Boston punks remain firmly among my favourites, and in a family where any given note can cause a scrap they're a rare example of a band that we all share a complete undying love for. With no Newcastle date, then, a Welford clan visit north of the border was on the cards, with Glasgow's famous Barrowlands Hall providing the venue. Drunk Scots, Celtic punk and seven foot giants in kilts; what better way to spend a weekend?!

An American band playing a distinctly Irish brand of punk in a Scotland may seem like a bizarre combination, but given the links between the latter two countries it felt like a strangely relevant setting - almost akin to a homecoming. They certainly came racing out of the blacks, with their hundred mile an hour cover of 'The Irish Rover' providing a purposeful opener if ever there was one. Unfortunately, it also caught the PA system completely off guard, with most of the traditional instrumentation lost in a distorted electric racket, and so most of the 2000 in attendance didn't seem to recognise the song until it's halfway point. Thankfully, the volume was turned down a notch from then on in, but the band themselves showed no signs of compromise, belting through the usual established favourites alongside a wealth of cuts from latest album Going Out In Style. The setlist did, in fact, seem to lean a little heavily on that record, but although they strangely omitted it's two best songs - 'Hang 'Em High' and 'The Hardest Mile' - the quality of the cuts which were aired ensured that this was only a minor issue.

Usually when you attend a Dropkick Murphys gig, you expect this frantic pace to continue unchecked from beginning to end, but tonight the band decided to mix things up a little by including a short acoustic segment mid-set. Results were decidedly mixed, with a surprisingly successful adaptation of 'The Warrior's Code' undermined somewhat by 'The Devil's Brigade,' which frankly didn't work at all stripped down. Newie 'Take Them Down' and the classic 'Boys On The Docks' proved far safer bets however, ultimately rendering this unlikely diversion a success - although there was a definite sense of relief which accompanied the reemergence of the electrics, coupled with anticipation for what lay ahead.

The remainder certainly didn't disappoint either, with the band tearing through all corners of their back catalogue with the type of unrelenting proficiency that routinely puts their contemporaries to shame. As ever, the encore was a wonderfully shambolic mess, but as well as the customary duo of 'Kiss Me I'm Shitfaced' and 'Skinhead On The MBTA' the band decided to go even further, introducing a crushing cover of AC/DC's 'TNT' before ending on an absolute bombshell with their own searing hardcore number 'Citizen C.I.A,' which provided 'Heroes Of Our Past' competition as the best song on the night. It wasn't the most obvious closer, but was brutally effective in its purpose, providing an abrupt conclusion to yet another fine showing. In truth, it was a night in which they never quite hit top form, yet it still managed to be an immensely satisfying one - proof if needed that Dropkick Murphys remain firmly atop the Celtic punk food chain. With a new record due later this year, that dominance looks all set to continue, and that's no bad thing.

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