Dropkick Murphys St. Patrick’s Day Tour Lifts Spirits in Atlanta – Photos and Review

Photos and Review by Max Stewart

Listening to Dropkick Murphys in March is like listening Nat King Cole or Bing Crosby at Christmastime, it just feels right. The Massachusetts band has a way of getting the St. Patrick’s Day spirit going like no one else.

They have mastered the perfect blend of Celtic songs with distortion. The band’s music has lyrical substance, but still has a kinetic rock energy that makes you want to shake, jump, or even throw yourself into the mosh pit.

As they do most every year, the band is doing a St. Patty’s Day Celebration tour before bringing some shows to Boston the week of the holiday, but they are also including a live stream on the big day at MGM Music Hall at Fenway if you are looking for something to do at home.

Leading up to their homecoming shows, the band has been making their way across the Southeast for the month of March. This included a stop at The Eastern on a beautiful Monday night in Atlanta, where around 9:00 pm fans were ripe with anticipation after strong opening sets from The Rumjacks and Jessie Ahern. The crowd was a blend of kilts, Ramones t-shirts, Guinness hats, and all things in between. The fashion of the audience in many ways defines the unique Dropkick Murphys sound.

The band opened with the thundering “The State of Massachusetts” before “The Boys Are Back,” setting a high-bar for the thrashing vibe of the night. Founding member and singer Ken Casey has a way of orchestrating the tempo of the show from on stage, keeping the crowd engaged and even venturing to the guardrail to give some fans a chance to belt some lyrics.

Casey’s energy is matched and amplified by the rest of the band who include Tim Brennan (guitars, tin whistle, accordion, piano, vocals), Jeff DaRosa (guitars, banjo, mandolin, vocals), Matt Kelly (drums, percussion, and vocals), James Lynch (guitars and vocals) and Kevin Rheault (bass).

Dropkick Murphys are a band for the people. From playing tunes for the working class (“Worker’s Song”) to putting words into action through their own charity that supports veterans, children, and addition recovery (The Claddagh Fund), they represent the struggles of the everyman. In fact, in Atlanta Casey noted that the band was going to make a last minute update to add “The Warrior’s Code” to their set for a warrior kid battling some health issues that they met backstage (Jake from The Shepherd Center hospital in Atlanta). So cool.

The setlist featured a few songs from their recent acoustic album, This Machine Still Kills Fascists, which included compositions of unused lyrics by Woody Guthrie (“Two 6’s Upside Down” was excellent live). They also played “I Know How It Feels” from their upcoming twelfth studio album, Okemah Rising, another record that utilized words from Guthrie. It is not widely known too that the lyrics of the band’s biggest song and centerpiece to the iconic film The Departed (“I’m Shipping Up To Boston”) actually were Guthrie’s as well. Kudos to the band for continuing to honor and keep the legacy of the American folk icon preserved.

Before “The Fields of Athenry,” Casey told an emotional story about U.S. Marine sergeant Andrew Farrar who had mentioned he wanted a stripped-down version of the song played at his funeral. He was tragically killed in Iraq in 2005, and the band put a CD of the slowed down version of the Pete St. John’s song in his casket and gave the other copy to Farrar’s wife.

Throughout the night, George Benner was working the booth selling merchandise to support The Claddagh Fund, as he travels with the band across their vast tour. It is a fantastic organization, be sure to look into donating or getting some of their merchandise online:

The Claddagh Fund was founded in Boston in 2009 by Ken Casey of the Dropkick Murphys. Ken, his bandmates and their families have supported charities throughout the history of the band. Understanding the power of their position to harness the passion and generosity of their fans, the Claddagh Fund was created to raise funds for and broaden our impact on worthy, underfunded non-profits that support the most vulnerable individuals in our communities.”

The crowd hit its apex of the night during “Johnny, I Hardly Knew Ya” and maintained that raw spirit through the timeless “I’m Shipping Up To Boston” and all the way through the encore. When the band ended the set with “Kiss Me, I’m Shitfaced,” spirits could not have been higher in the room. Sure, most of us had to get up the next day for work (some with a few headaches no doubt…), but we will always treasure these defining musical moments and take comfort in the community spirit of great songs.

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