Album Review: The Dropkick Murphys – Live on Lansdowne




I remember my first Dropkick Murphys show very well. It was at the Fleet Pavilion (now Bank of America Pavilion) in Boston, which is literally on the water. It was a pretty unique experience. I was 14, the Sex Pistols were headlining (minus Sid Vicious) and my friend and I were brought there by my father, due to our ineligibility to drive. My father spent most of the game listening to the Red Sox, and then when he came to join us for the Murphys’ set, some drunken Bostonian tried to punch him in the face. My dad pushed the guy out of his way and then the dude began to puke everywhere in a drunken frenzy. The crowd also rushed the stage as soon as the band came out, ignoring the fact that there was structured seating at this venue. And the Murphys closed with the best version of “Good Rats” I had ever heard in my life. This is the epitome of the Dropkick Murphys following in Boston; rambunctious, hardcore, drunk, live, and, most of all, in your face.

Therefore, it is no surprise to me that this year’s St. Patrick’s Day marks the release of Live on Lansdowne, a live compilation of a weeklong stand in Boston from the recent past, which honors the fact that the Murphys are indeed one of the gnarliest punk acts to ever come out of the Northeastern city. Their live glory cannot be matched, and the fact they have gotten to the point where every show in the Northeast is sold out so far in advance, is a truly fantastic moment in the history of Boston punk (I’m sure numerous underground Boston punks are hating my guts right now). This is how you have to experience the band: live.

The album opens with the classic chant (“Let’s go Murphys!”) that is familiar to anybody who has either a) seen them in concert or b) gone to a well-played Red Sox game where the band shows up. It then launches right into “Famous for Nothing”, a rather ironic opener for a band like the Murphys, since they are indeed famous for something. They rip through the three minute song with such speed and force that it just makes you want to jump into a circle pit and punch your best friend in the face, since this is considered normal behavior at their shows.

“The State of Massachusetts” follows, getting the hypothetical crowd and listeners jacked up on Bostonian pride. Any person who can’t pronounce the word ‘Harvard’ correctly, roots for the Celtics, or just has a beer in their hand will feel the intensity and civic pride within the band. A spectacular version of “Caught in the Jar” appears after a group of tunes including, “Bastards on Parade”, “Flannigan’s Ball”, and “Sunshine Highway”, all so emotional and triumphant that you can’t help but want to be in that crowd and sing your lungs out. This is what makes the Dropkick Murphys so enjoyable, the unity their music creates (even if some of that unity if shown by slam dancing).

“Fields of Athenry” was always one of my favorite songs (which I finally heard a quiet, shitty, live version of at Download Fest 2006), but the version on this album gives the song the heartfelt justice it deserves. Al Barr belts out the beautiful lyrics to this song as the relentless bagpipes and guitars provide the melodic tune to create one of the finest live versions possible. “Tessie” obviously has to show up on this album, as it is a dedication to (arguably) one of the most legendary baseball teams ever, who plays on Lansdowne Street. The version played is accompanied by the crowd hollering the words into the Boston night as they toast their hypothetical glasses to the Red Sox. “Kiss Me, I’m Shitfaced” also is an obvious inclusion, but it’s the live versions of their most popular tunes that show why they are such a great band.

The band closes the set (or album) with another final chant, to indicate some sort of encore. They return to the stage with another Beantown legend, the Mighty Mighty Bosstones, for a chaotic, triumphant, and powerful version of “I’m Shipping Up to Boston”, hands down their most popular and known song. One could argue this to be a cliché, but this is in no way possible. While it is their single (my best friend’s preppy ex-girlfriend at one point had it as her ringtone), The Bosstone’s addition, the Murphys grit, and the over-ecstatic crowd makes this performance of a classic tune an unforgettable live experience. I guess you just had to be there.

The Dropkick Murphys are an important part of any New Englander’s music collection and pride. Even my punk friend who doesn’t care for their music owns a copy of Do or Die. They are just one of those bands that either you feel the connection, or you don’t, and if you are lucky enough to ride this wave of unity, you get to experience a live spectacle. The Murphys have certainly been able to stick to their roots, but move out of the basement and onto the airwaves. And even though a large base of their songs are based on a place that a majority of music listeners haven’t visited, they resonate well with the general public because everybody can understand their core values: honoring your heritage and upbringing. If you can connect with an audience with a personal message and feeling that well, you are clearly doing something right. Happy St. Patrick’s Day punks and skins, see you in the pit.

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