Live Concert Review

Dropkick Murphys, Against Me!, Off With Their Heads

Live (Feb. 26th, 2011)

Congress Theater- Chicago, IL
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Plastic cups of Guinness are raised high in the air, if you are not wearing a green t-shirt, you are the minority my friend, the dude next to you has whiskey breath, and his wasted girlfriend is dancing like she’s Irish (for today at least); is it Saint Patrick’s Day? Not quite yet, but the Dropkick Murphys brought two nights of premature St. Patrick’s Day fun to unite the Irish, frat bros, punk rockers, and everyone else looking for a good time.

The Dropkick Murphys dropped into Chicago Saturday, February 26 and Sunday, 27 at the Congress Theater, a venue where the capacity is near 4,000 and a can (not a tallboy) of PBR will cost you 5 bucks a pop. That aside, the venue brings in a lot of great acts, including October’s Riot Fest. I was at the Sunday show which hosted Off With Their Heads, Against Me!, and The Murphys of course. The Saturday bill had the same line-up except Naked Raygun played instead of Against Me!.

Off With Our Heads (OWTH) did not give Chicago much time to miss them with just rolling through town with Less than Jake on February 3. Their 30-40 minute, almost 15 song set was a mix of tracks off In Desolation, From the Bottom, and 2 songs from Hospitals. The floor was packed and the front and center portion of the crowd embraced OWTH’s speedy return to town. Along with the decent sized pit that was in full force during songs like “Their Own Medicine,” “I Am You,” and “Terrorist Attack?,” there was plenty of fists pumping and scattered sing alongs amongst crowd members.

Singer/guitarist Ryan Young admitted that they’ve been playing the same songs for a while, and played “I Just Want You to Know” and “ZZYZX,” two songs they did not play last time in Chicago. Overall, the band energy was felt more in the music than their on-stage presence. OWTH did not move around stage too much, but killed the songs. They packed as much music into their set as possible, without stopping to make chit-chat. The mixed crowd of old dudes with their flap caps, bros in green, girlfriends clenching onto said bros, and the everyday punk rock t-shirt 20-somes clapped with seeming approval as “Clear the Air” ended and Young explained, “Thanks Motherfuckers!”

After a quick twenty minute set change, a banner adorning Against Me!’s (AM!) latest release, White Crosses dropped while Tom Gabel and the gang took the stage. AM! pounded into “Pints of Guinness Make You Strong,” a fitting track for the Murphys direct support to start with. After this pot of gold, I figured my luck would disappear and the band would trek into lesser enjoyed and listened to tracks, but I was pleasantly surprised with a blow away set list.

AM! played nearly half of As the Eternal Cowboy, a personal favorite, with tracks I haven’t heard live in years. Everyone in the band had big smiles on their faces, bassist Andrew Seward was running back and forth on-stage throughout the set, and they sounded great. Gabel looked reminiscent of Tim McIlrath during the Fat years with his flowing, curly, near shoulder length hair. Gabel’s voice sounded great, he was rocking through the instrumental parts, and every song was dead on.

The front portion of the floor went crazy for songs like “From Her Lips to God’s Ears (The Energizer),” “Rice and Bread,” and “Walking is Still Honest.” A good portion of the crowd was familiar with the set and if not pogoing up and down, at least singing along. Songs like “Thrash Unreal” and “I Was a Teenage Anarchist” had more of the nearly full venue dancing around as their whiskey shots started to take toll. AM! stole the show as they played the shit out of their music, never stopped moving, and the a never ending positive-vibe they displayed on-stage. You could tell they were happy to be there, having the best time ever and really would rather be in-front of these people playing their songs than anywhere else.

The Dropkick Murphys (DKM) are currently touring in support of their new album, Going Out in Style, released March 1, 2011. Going Out in Style is the band’s seventh full-length studio album and the follow-up to 2007’s The Meanest of Times. DKM blend punk rock, Celtic folk, and American rock ‘n roll to create a style of music that draws in everyone from frat boys to punk rockers to teenage girls. The near capacity venue was no exception this evening, packed with people of all ages and styles.

The band took the stage with the cover of Going Out in Style in the background, an elaborate, elevated set-up where a back-up strings section sat, and green and red lights throughout the performance. Lead vocalist Al Barr moved back and forth the stage dressed from head-to-toe in black with black converse. His energy was matched by his six band members playing everything from the bagpipes to the mandolin and accordion.

The venue is big enough that several pits broke-out, but nothing got too crazy in the crowd. The audience mostly jumped around while pumping their fists in the air, and the pits were small and tame. In previous years I’ve seen the Murphys, the fans have been insane with huge Irish flags in the air and vicious pits. The crowd did however break the barricade, and had to stop the set for a bit to temporarily set up a replacement.

The energy did not die amongst the band as they played an impressive approximately 25 song set list. They played many songs from Going out in Style, receiving a positive response from tracks like “Going Out in Style,” “Memorial Day,” and “Hang ‘Em High.” Along with the newbies, they played fan favorites “Citizen C.I.A.,” “Bar Room Hero,” and “Kiss Me, I’m Shitfaced.”

The Murphy’s wrapped up their second night in Chicago with a phenomenal bill of opening of acts, and enough raw emotion and energy packed performances to last concertgoers until next time Congress barricade needs a good breaking.