Dropkick Murphys played the Congress Theater for a second night in a row in Chicago on Feb. 27 and literally broke the place apart. In the midst of all the jaggoffs in balconies texting their BFFs, there was actually a punk show going on. Down on the floor there was no shortage of punk stench in the heavy mosh pits; armpit and Schlitz-smelling beards abounded.
The Irish punk rockers from Boston didn’t waste any time kicking ass and taking names as the PA blasted “The Boys Are Back in Town,” dropping a preemptive St. Patty’s Day strike on Chicago.
Some bands come to the Congress Theater to get intimate; these cats were here to fuck.
Right from the get-go there were rolling motions of good punk and the Dropkick Murphys set the stage with their full ensemble and a backdrop showing off their latest album cover artwork. Lead singer Al Barr took to the stage like a cage fighter tossing from side to side as though it were a pre-fight warm up. The Murphys gave the crowd a show and with the metric butt load of fiddles and Scruffy on the bagpipes, a Celtic infused punk sound was resonating off the plaster like an angry Irish lullaby.
As the show rolled on, the crowd exploded as “The Gangs All Here” started up. There’s only so much that can be said for a band that plays the crowd, but these boys get right in there and make audience participation a must. The sea of bodies bouncing up and down to the rhythm was intoxicating and Barr took to the Chicago mob as though he were back home in Boston.
Photo by Katie Hovland of Jaded In Chicago
Playing to the blue-collar horde, bassist Ken Casey managed to take in a Blackhawks game but was adamant about how much he loves his Bruins. He let the crowd know he supports the Original Six and, of course, nothing says hockey like punk music. The band went into “Time to Go” and the house erupted with chants of “Go, go black and gold.” You could see acres of green Blackhawks jerseys surfing on the outstretched hands of the ravenous crowd and even a dude in a Toews jersey kaile dancing along with the beat.
Amid the chaos and confusion, the mob grew to epic proportions in the front of the stage and broke the safety barrier.
“Sign of a good show when you break the barriers,” touted Casey and the show was halted only for a minute. The gentleman punks from Beantown instructed the crowd to shift back, security crew fixed the barrier and the show charged on. You can always tell the measure of a punk show by the number of people getting fucked up in the front row.
The barrier broke a second time and had to be replaced. This afforded the band a quick moment to catch its breath as the fiddle section played on. This was the only real slow moment of the two-hour set and soon the Congress exploded like a powder keg again.
There were shout-outs to Wisconsin labor unions and marriage proposals, but the best part was the encore. Dropkick Murphys is the reason punks are proud to be punks. They brought all the ladies onstage for “Kiss Me, I’m Shitfaced” and then mounted a full-on stage invasion for the rest of the encore. Tattoo clad baldheads and voluptuous brunette beauties covered every square inch of the stage.
The Dropkick Murphys didn’t “go through the goddamn motions” as Casey so vehemently put it. They brought the heat and after 15 years of kicking ass all over the world, these guys still have it. They play their music like it’s the blood that flows through their veins.