This past Friday night the Dropkick Murphys brought their St. Patricks Day tour to the Aragon Ballroom in Chicago. Almost every time the Murphys come to Chicago or Milwaukee I am usually in attendance. This past September they were apart of Riot Fest in Humboldt Park and for the past three years they have played a post-game concert in Milwaukee at the Bradley Center after the Admirals game. For whatever reason they are not doing their annual show after an Admirals game this year, so the Aragon looks to be my only local Dropkick fix this winter.
On this tour they have Old Man Markley from Los Angeles warming the crowd up. Old Man Markley is a punk and bluegrass band that packed a wallop with their mixture of sounds that they brought to the stage. Markley’s arsenal consisted of many unique instruments including an autoharp, a washtub bass, a banjo, a fiddle and a washboard. Now one might think with seven players on stage playing diverse folk esque instruments that the sound might not be mixed well, especially at the Aragon. But I have to tell you that the sound was great and not one thing was overpowering the other. Even the washboard was audible in the mix.
Most of the lead vocals were covered by guitar player, John Carey but on a few songs the reigns were handed to the autoharp player, Annie DeTemple. This group was equally bad ass. Fiddle player, Katie Weed was smoking and Joey Garibaldi was a mad man on the washtub bass, which was an actual steel washtub. It would not surprise me at all to see these guys pop up on the festival circuit this year. They had the Murphys crowd in the palm of their hand and I see many big things in the future for these bluegrass punks.
Around nine o’clock the lights dimmed back down and the sounds of “The Foggy Dew” by The Chieftains and Sinead O’Connor came blaring through the speakers. The Murphys have been using this Irish ballad as their stage intro for many years now. Soon after, the sounds of a fast paced acoustic guitar led the charge and boys jumped right into “The Boys Are Back” off their newest album, Signed and Sealed in Blood.
It has been sixteen years now that the Murphys have been on the scene. I remember seeing them on their first tour in 1997 when they were the opening act for the Mighty Mighty Bosstones. Every year since then especially in the past ten or so, they seem to be growing in popularity and the venues keep getting bigger. This time at the Aragon, they had no problem filling it and if it wasn’t sold out it was damn close.
If you haven’t had the chance to see a Dropkick show then you are missing out. Guiness, whiskey, dancing, jigging, moshing and plenty of smiles are just some of the elements of a Dropkick show. Their set was an hour and a half of Irish punk goodness. They held nothing back and gave the crowd what they asked for including the anthems, “The Warriors Code,” “Johnny, I Hardly Knew Ya,” “The Gauntlet,” and “The Irish Rover.”
Their new album, Signed and Sealed in Blood is very good and their best effort in a while. Not dissing their last album, Going Out In Style at all but they definitely stepped it up a tad for this latest one. They did give us some treats from the last album including the title track, “Going Out In Style.” They also broke it down and did an acoustic jam in the middle of the set with the sing along, “Worker’s Song.” They kept the venue singing along when they went into the ballad, “Rose Tattoo” off of Signed and Sealed in Blood. They debuted that one back in September when they were at Riot Fest and that’s when I knew the album to come was going to be a classic.
The set concluded with the anthemic “I’m Shipping Up to Boston” in which the whole crowd loses their shit. They of course disappear and come back for a raucous encore as per usual. Surprisingly a lot of people started leaving but the bulk of the crowd stayed knowing that their encore is always a worthy treat. This time around the four song encore included the Murphys rendition of the AC/DC classic, “Dirty Deeds.” For a couple years now they have been covering “TnT” by AC/DC, but keeping with their love for the classic rockers they just changed up the tune selection.
Overall the Murphys kicked ass like they always do. If they come your way definitely check them out, it’s a live show you don’t want to miss. Here’s to hoping they come back this a way in the summer.
Reviewed by Todd Anthony on 2/22/13