It may have been winter and a cold wet wind was stirring up, but inside the Telegraph Building it was heaving with people in a state of heated anticipation. The sold-out show was proof everyone was ready for an incredible musical ride of a lifetime.
Tonight American punk rockers Dropkick Murphys were in Belfast to play to an audience eager to lap up their celtic lilted and Irish infused pub punk tunes. And it was a special one as it was the opening night of their European tour.
As the house lights went down, the loud roars went up. The stage, bedecked with religious icons of crosses and skulls, provided a juxtaposed backdrop for these hard-core punk rockers.
The candles scattered around gave an eery light with a soft introductory song as the band slipped onto stage and the dulcet tones of the tin whistle started the cover of “The Lonesome Boatman” as it built into its own rousing energetic crowd-pleasing anthem.
Then the pipes began playing, the lights blared into life as the beat of the ensemble on stage exploded into life and everyone knew that “The Boys were back”. The whole building exploded in a manic energetic joy as everyone exploded into bouncing, shaking fists and screaming out the lyrics along with the band.
“What’s up, Belfast?? Are you ready?” came the call from the stage and the huge cheers gave the answer everyone knew was coming.
And from that moment for the next couple of hours the momentum never stopped. “Mick Jones and My Pudding”, “The State of Massachusetts” and the incredibly rousing “Blood” belted out across the floor and the place just heaved in delight. Not one remained unmoved.
This was just a full-on high-energy creation of pure punk energy infused Irish shanty like music that refused to let anyone stay still. Pounding thumping beats and hypnotic rhythms were the name of the day.
Ken Casey took a moment to address the crowd calling out “How you doing? So, I’m told it’s been eight or nine years since we were here last. Thanks for waiting for us for so long. During the pandemic we released 2 albums. Didn’t see that one coming. The next one is off one of those albums.
And with that they laned “Middle finger” before punching on with “Talking Jukebox” and “Good as Gold”.
Creating a small lull Ken took a moment to once more address the audience, “Anyone who’s been following us for a long time will know we have a long association with Belfast and a particular band from here.
We played a lot with a band called Running Riot and had a close friendship with them. Colin McQuillan could light a room up when he walked in. We miss him dearly so in his memory we are going to do a cover. I can’t sing like him and can’t speak like him but I’ll do my best.” And with that the room exploded as Dropkick Murphys played “Divide and Conquer”
Ken once again addressed the audience The year was 1996, a kid said I dare you to form a band and play in two weeks. I said why not, formed a band, wrote three songs and learned three covers and here we are 26 years later. This is the first song written by Dropkick Murphys.
And with that they slammed into the fast punk Oi! Song “Barroom Hero”Then came “The Bonny”, “Cadillac, Cadillac”, “Ten Times More”, “We Shall Overcome” and “Smash Shit Up”. Each and every one hitting home and cranking up the energy of the room.
A lot of people were going to be absolutely knackered and have very sore throats the next day. But the incandescent joy was utterly palpable. Anyone just walking in at that point would almost immediately be smiling even if they didn’t know why. It was infectious.
On came the unrepentant driving force of Dropkick Murphys with “Where Trouble Is At”, “Never Git Drunk No More”, “Two 6’s Upside Down” and “Worker’s Song”. Each song whipping up the crowd into a momentous rapture of delight.
Every so often members of the band along with Ken would egg on, from the front row to the back, each and every person in that very large hall. They were a very tight band having crafted their style over the past 26 years and each one showing how proficient they were on any number of instruments.
As time was running low they belted out “Johnny, I Hardly Knew Ya”, “The Warrior’s Code”, “Turn Up That Dial” and “Rose Tattoo” to the continued delight and full enjoyment of everyone. The heaving, bouncing, singing and fist pumping had not stopped all night.
Then they finished their main set with “Kiss Me, I’m Shitfaced” to rapturous cheers and applause.
As with all gigs, they must finally come to a close, but not without one last hurrah of an encore. Dropkick Murphys did not disappoint in that regard playing “Dirty Old Town”, “I’m Shipping up to Boston” and bowing out with “Boys on the Docks”. The final applause was, unbelievably louder than the first. Somehow, the band had coaxed out of the crowd that last bit of strength into one final explosion of outpouring of yells, cheers and clapping.
Overall, Dropkick Murphys are a solid, tight and energetic band that know how to whip up a crowd and keep them in a high level of joy filled madness for longer than you would expect. So many of their songs are emotionally rousing anthems with no filler songs to pad out the set. They are very talented multi-instrumentalists with a keen empathy for the audience as they bounce around the stage. They can connect so openly and joyously with the crowd in front of them the whole energy they have infects everyone and no one can stand still. The crowd that attended went home exhausted, with probably a few sore throats but all with a massive exuberant grin.
You would do a disservice to yourself not to check out Dropkick Murphys live. Find out more about their European Tour and St Patricks Day tour at https://dropkickmurphys.com/.