Going Celtic in Santa Ana with the Dropkick Murphys
Few bands roar with the ferociousness of Dropkick Murphys. For just under 90 minutes Monday night, the Boston band rocked the Observatory with an intense power that fueled action in the pit and produced plenty of obvious delight from those packed into every corner of the Santa Ana venue, cheering and pumping their fists and moving with the music.
It almost goes without saying that Dropkick would play many of its signature Celtic punk tunes with abandon – and throwing in a reworked, amped-up cover of the Irish classic "The Irish Rover" was loads of fun as well.
But with a new album, "Signed and Sealed in Blood," due in January, the group also rolled out a number of new songs, showcasing the genre-busting outfit's still-burgeoning ambition.
They opened with the aptly titled "The Boys Are Back," an undeniably catchy song that immediately had the crowd surging along to the mighty rhythm. Even more impressive was a performance later in the set of "Don't Tear Us Apart," a winner that, with a haunting melody replaced by rousing gang vocals on the chorus, put the spotlight on the band's oft-overlooked songwriting gifts.
Who knew this raging outfit would ever see fit to cut a Christmas tune? "The Season's Upon Us" is set for release as a single later this month, and while the song's focus is on a dysfunctional family, it once more taps into the real-life, working-class themes that have been a Dropkick Murphys staple from the start.
Lead singer Al Barr, whose raspy bite falls somewhere between that of AC/DC vocalists Brian Johnson and Bon Scott, prowled the stage while the unerring outfit around him blended punk and Celtic pub rock with everything from accordion and whistle to banjo and mandolin, all layered atop a solid foundation of bass, guitar and drums. The straightforward "Going Out in Style," for instance, might have been a simple punkish tune from another group, but with Scruffy Wallace's energetic bagpipes in the mix, the tune was anything but routine.
Dropkick slowed its attack only briefly, with the first section of "Rose Tattoo" effectively sung by bassist Ken Casey before the piece picked up speed. The night just kept building from there, with "I'm Shipping Up to Boston," "Kiss Me I'm #!@'faced" (during which several dozen ladies were invited to join them on stage) and a mostly faithful cover of the Thunder from Down Under's "Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap" bringing things to a glorious close.
Of the night's two openers, Montreal's own Celtic punks the Mahones were the clear favorite. The quintet's fast-moving half-hour set featured several memorable songs, including "Paint the Town Red" and "Drunken Lazy Bastard."
Teenage Bottlerocket, a quartet that played punk fast and loud, may have pleased some in the mosh pit, but there was a sameness to the songs once they blasted pass the opening salvo "Freak Out!"
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