Dropkick Murphys

Manchester O2 Victoria Warehouse // Wednesday 18th January 2023

“A rowdy bunch they are” – a Moshmag review by Daniel Bowdler // Photography by David Dillon

There’s an old adage “you shouldn’t talk about politics and religion”. But with a stage arranged like a Mexican funeral and album title “this machine still kills fascists” making up the back drop it’s a saying the Dropkick Murphys’ Victoria Warehouse gig on Wednesday night were never going to adhere to.

The Dropkick Murphys are unashamedly, a political band with a back catalogue of “say it with your chest out” political songs, and I absolutely love them for it. At a time when when trade unionism and working class solidarity is arising from its metaphorical slumber, lead vocalist Ken Casey didn’t mix his words, addressing the crowd mid-show “In America, the far right have tricked the working class…we (the Dropkick Murphys) support the working class; the railway workers, the postal workers, the health workers, the ambulance drivers. This ones for them.”

This tour is first and foremost to promote the bands latest album This Machine Still Kills Fascist. A nod to the late great Woody Guthrie, the grandfather of American protest songs. The album title itself mirroring Guthrie famous inscribed guitar is a collection of songs heavily inspired by, and sometimes featuring Guthrie. Resulting in a softer more countrified sound.

However in an interesting plot twist, since the band last appeared on these shores they have also released Turn Up That Dial. An old fashioned DM punk record. It promised to be a fascinating evening to see whether these two almost conflicting styles would compliment one another.

As the house lights dimmed, a sole piper took to the stage lit only by candles and mobile phones, before the band launched full bodied into the Furey’s classic “The Lonesome Boat“, a song covered by the band on 11 Short Stories of Pain & Glory. The Boys are Back served both as the second song and a description. The DM were indeed back as empty plastic glasses fizzed through the air. “It’s been a long time coming” sang Casey all too truthfully, this was a rearranged gig following the enforced cancellation of the show scheduled for 2021.

Casey, with the sturdy physique of everyone’s favourite Irish uncle (it’s the forearms I think), is a man no stranger to introducing himself to the front row. He is a wonderful front man, an enigmatic ball of enthusiasm Casey just does not stop. He also occasionally punches Nazis, which makes you wonder if there’s any ends to this man talents?! “Let’s hear it for the security guards!” he cried, with a glint in his eye, “with health and safety trying to make it no fun to be a punk fan anymore, they’ve told me I’ve got to have a barrier if people crowd surf, so if you could just crowd surf to the side please”. I hope he wasn’t being serious because nobody took a blind bit of notice.

Two Sixes Upside Down was our first venture into country, but country with an edge, a little like Johnny Cash’s Folsom Prison Blues, before a the first open venture into politics. “We’re singing it a little different tonight” Casey explained of All You Fonies “tonight we’re singing All You Tories (bound to lose, lose lose)”. Here’s hoping it’s a prophecy.

A quick about turn for crowd favourites Chosen Few, The State of Massachusetts, The Queen of Suffolk County, The Last One with new single Cadillac, Cadillac thrown in for good measure. Workers Song (with Mike Rivkees of the Rumjacks joining the band on vocals) and Mick Jones Nicked My Pudding followed up, before the band did a “reverse Dylan”. Off went the electrics and out came the acoustics, along with vocalist Jaime Wyatt for Never Git Drunk No More.

The vocalist lazy Susan began to spin with Wyatt departing stage right and Jesse Ahern entering the fray for an interesting acoustic version of Barroom Hero. Barroom Hero is a bona fide DM classic, a proper punk rock song, but it works beautifully when slowed down and stripped back. It really is a reminder that good music is good music however its stylised.

Returning to the norm with Johnny, I Hardly Ya and a cover of Ewan MacColl’s ode to Salford Dirty Old Town, the band closed their set proper with arguably their most well known song I’m Shipping Up To Boston. No DM set is complete however without Rose Tattoo and The Dirty Glass before the classic grand finale “Kiss Me I’m Shitfaced”.

As we ventured back out into the cold January air it struck me how Salford Quays, a site literally shaped by the shipping industry which preceded it, is now home to Media City with ITV and BBC television studios calling it home. The Dropkick Murphys likewise are shaped and influenced by an industrial history, thankfully committed to history. A cause, more often than not, literally fought for by the men and women who are chronicled in their songs, leaving the lads free to entertain us. All our work lives are a better place thanks to those individuals and what’s more, they played a very small part in giving the world the Dropkick Murphys.

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