In the aftermath of Vancouver’s hockey riots, which ignited when the local team (the Vancouver Canucks) lost the Stanley Cup Finals to the Boston Bruins, there has been a great deal of analysis going on, as the town’s civic psyche has been under the microscope to determine just how such mayhem ensued. Mass shame and embarrassment has clouded over most of the 604 area code.
Boarded windows have become “apology walls” where citizens write notes to right wrongs, providing a communal coming together to mourn the rioters’ actions in an attempt to collectively heal. Yes, it borders on new-age, but there’s something endearing about it.
In this light, the arrival of Boston’s Dropkick Murphys for two sold-out shows at the Commodore couldn’t have been more ill-timed. Instead of sympathy, the Celtic punks delivered a sound kick to the stitches.
The first scab-pick occurred before the curtains parted, with its choice of “We are the Champions” for fanfare. The open curtains salted more wounds when they revealed a Bruins logo on the bass drum and bassist/singer Ken Casey sporting a Bobby Orr jersey.
A Boston Bruins season ticket holder, who came to Vancouver to see Game 7 and subsequently witness the riot, Casey proved to be unrelenting in his ridicule.
Before throwing a picture of himself with the Stanley Cup (taken on the Vancouver rink) into the crowd, he blessed the Vancouver faithful with “From the bottom of my heart, fuck you.”
Early in the show, he also offered up scathing hockey advice: “You need a better goalie” and, “Our 20-year-old rookie [Brad Marchand] punching your leading scorer [Daniel Sedin] in the face and having nobody stick up for him said a lot about your team’s character.” While a scant smattering of boos rose up, nobody could argue with the man on his second point.
The last pointed jab was at the merchandise table, which featured a t-shirt in Bruins’ colors with the words “Bite This Burrows,” a snide, direct reference to the Vancouver winger (Alexandre Burrows) who bit a Boston player’s (Patrice Bergeron) finger earlier in the Stanley Cup Finals.
When the stream of onstage hockey commentary of evening started to choke the life out of the gig with gloating and smugness, singer Al Barr brought the music back in focus by thanking Vancouver fans for the sell-out crowds and their long-term dedication to the band.
Once focused on the songs, the group demonstrated why sell-outs are the norm here. As relentless as the Beantown sports mockery was, the band’s high-energy sonic assault resoundingly overshadowed it. “Johnny, I Hardly Knew Ya,” “Skinhead on the MBTA,” and of course, its huge hit from The Departed (which is more relevant than ever with the recent arrest of Beantown crime legend Whitey Bulger) hit hard. “I’m Shipping Up to Boston,” albeit truncated, whipped the packed crowd into a fervor—maybe, just maybe, making them forget recent events.
The encore, AC/DC’s “TNT,” was the ultimate catalyst, as the mob exploded in delight and appreciation before going peacefully into the Vancouver night to walk amongst the few remnants from the last time a Boston outfit kicked ass here.
Call the show cathartic, therapeutic, or evidence of maturation, especially after the events of 10 days earlier; Vancouverites might choose to call this night, and their participation in it, simply “progress.”