The picture you will see below illustrates just one amazing moment in an evening of amazing moments as Dropkick Murphys performed at The Tabernacle in Atlanta the other night. This one came at the end, during the encore, when the band invited first the women upfront in the mosh pit up onto the stage for “Kiss Me, I’m Shitfaced,” and then some of the men as well. I had never seen a group do that at a major concert, and it was, I thought, a very brave and generous thing for the band to do, and a lot of fun to watch.
But wait! That’s the end of the concert. First, we need to go back and talk about what went beforehand.
I had three bands on my bucket list to see before I die: Flogging Molly, Social Distortion, and Dropkick Murphys. I have seen Flogging Molly and Social D a couple of times, but until last night I had never seen Dropkick Murphys. After all, it had been five years since they had even been to Atlanta. So I was excited to mark another show off my list, but I was a little worried. Could the band, which has been around for 16 years now, actually live up to my expectations?
The answer is a resounding yes! In fact, the whole evening, from The Mahones’ opening set through Frank Turner and The Sleeping Souls’ excellent set, was just about perfect. I was especially impressed with Frank Turner, an English folk/punk singer and songwriter with a lot of stage presence and energy.
But it was Dropkick Murphys that the packed audience came to see, and how they delivered! From the moment they hit the stage, it was fast, loud, and non-stop, the band moving rapidly from one song to another, switching banners and lighting as they went through most of the songs on Going Out in Style and others from earlier albums, including “Shipping Up to Boston,” “Do or Die,” “Boys on the Docks,” and “Skinhead on the MBTA.”
It was a feast for eyes and ears. From our seat in the balcony, we had a perfect view of the band and the rolling, singing, dancing mob in front of the stage. Everyone was packed together, drinking, and constantly in motion, and yet I saw no aggressive pushing or shoving or fighting. As lead singer Al Barr said, it was “all about the camaraderie.”
Up where we were in the crowded balcony, it was easy to see what a mixed crowd it was. There were people in their 20s and people in their 50s and up. No particular style of dress predominated. The one uniting thread was love for the band and the music. It was obvious that everyone was having fun.
The Tabernacle is a great music venue, my favorite concert venue in Atlanta. The stage is built with a lip that allows band members to step right down among the people upfront, and the band took full advantage of that feature. At various times both lead vocalists Al Barr and Ken Casey, banjo player Jeff DaRosa, and guitarist Tim Brennan stepped out there to perform and to interact with the crowd.
Altogether, the band played for an hour and a half. In that time, they managed to include both acoustic and electric performances and a lot of songs. They ended with the onstage audience participation where a lot of really happy people got to be part of the show.
It’s not really possible to describe in words how great this concert was, but suffice it to say that the band delivered on everything I expected of them and more. It was fast, it was loud, it was fun, and I hope that it’s not five years before the Dropkick Murphys come around again.