Itching for their summer dose of Celtic punk, the one-two punch of Dropkick Murphys and Flogging Molly attracted a massive crowd to Red Hat Amphitheater in Raleigh, NC. Opening the show were Irish-American stalwarts Flogging Molly, hitting the ground running with “Paddy’s Lament“. The energy of their set was electric, whipping the mosh pit into a frenzy. The seven-piece tore through their catalogue with classics such as “Drunken Lullabies” and “The Seven Deadly Sins”, creating an intimate atmosphere often not accomplished at larger venues such as this. It’s clear why Flogging Molly has been such a standard-bearer for Celtic-punk – their sixteen-song setlist never wavered in enthusiasm or passion. Even twenty years after their debut release, the band’s obvious love of their craft truly resonated with their audience and made for a memorable night. As the final notes rang out of their last track “Salty Dog“, the crowd was bristling with anticipation for the inimitable Dropkick Murphys.
As the packed venue waited for DKM to take the stage, the excitement was almost palpable. I felt the crowd buzz at my back from the photo pit as the anticipation mounted and the first notes of “The State of Massachusetts” broke the silence. The massive black curtain dropped to the roar of the audience, and that energy was mirrored by the immediate, commanding presence of vocalist Al Barr. Lit by the impressive backdrop logo fit for an arena tour, the vocalist duo of Barr and bassist/vocalist Ken Casey (sans his signature lefty bass due to injury) directly engaged with the audience from the barricade steps. This interaction between artist and fans made such a huge stage production feel all the more personal. The Boston natives hearkened back to their hometown on the following track, “The Boys are Back”, with the line “Speeding down the highway, on 93 / I’m missing my home, and it’s killing me”- raising a cheer from a crowd that undoubtedly included dozens who once hailed from New England. The circle pits opened up early and often, driven by the bagpipes and pounding drums signature to DKM’s sound.
Their career-spanning setlist of 17 tracks showcased classics like “Johnny I Hardly Knew Ya” and “Captain Kelly’s Kitchen”, as well as newer favourites “Rose Tattoo” and “Blood” from their most recent release “11 Short Stories of Pain and Glory”. After going out in style (after a track by that name), the septet came back for a five-song encore of both classics and covers. Their Anthemic “Shipping Up to Boston” got the loudest crowd response of the night, but then slowed to a serenade with “Kiss Me I’m Shitfaced“. Always a favourite of fans, dozens were crowd surfed over the barricade and brought onstage to sing along. I’ve seen Dropkicks three times prior, and the pure elation and excitement of those singing onstage is and always will be my favourite part of their performance. They closed the night with a classic ACDC tune, Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap- adding to the party atmosphere and being a perfect final sendoff for the night. Dropkick Murphys are true showmen, masters of crowd involvement and creating excitement onstage. While this tour has come to a close, whether you made it to a date of this tour or not, don’t miss the next time these Boston Boys roll through your city.