Photo Credit: Dropkick Murphys

Review by Sadie Shelkey


Dropkick Murphys’ unique sound, catchy lyricism, and inclusive working-class and union pride have cemented them as hometown legends in Boston. Hailing from Quincy, Massachusetts, the band is known for its iconic Celtic-punk style, blending instrumentals and melodic elements from traditional Irish folk music with an American punk-rock foundation.

Sunday, March 17th, marked the final show of the Dropkick Murphys’ five-week St. Patrick’s Day Tour across the US. Since 2001, the band has made a tradition of performing an annual series of St. Patrick’s Day shows in Boston, attracting many loyal fans from across the country. While this was my first time seeing the Dropkicks, the pit was full of devout fans, decked head-to-toe in the band’s merchandise and the celebration’s traditional green. With infectious energy coming from both the crowd and onstage, the Dropkick Murphys put on a truly memorable performance.

The show opened with Kneecap, a hip-hop trio from Belfast. The group recently made their US TV debut, performing “Sick in the Head” on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon. Their lyrics mix English and Irish (Gaelige), and their 30-minute set was full of catchy hooks and witty verses. This was Kneecap’s first gig on this tour, and they were clearly unfamiliar with such a large American audience. But as seen in their efforts to egg on the reluctant crowd to chant ‘cunt’ and to mosh like the Irish do —with “no elbows,” unlike the more aggressive American pits— their hilarity quickly transferred to the room and captivated the growing audience.

Kneecap’s performance was followed by Pennywise, or “The West Coast Dropkick Murphys,” according to Dropkick Murphys’ lead vocalist Ken Casey. The California-based punk-rock band, led by frontman Jim Lindberg, are longtime friends and collaborators of the Dropkick Murphys.

With a great setlist and entertaining crowd work, Pennywise delighted the room with favorites like “My Own Country,” “F— Authority,” and “Society.” Lindberg made sure to shout out the band’s hard-working crew throughout the performance, even bringing one of the members, Johnny, onstage to jam with the band for a number.

The band performed a punchy twist on “Stand By Me” and a mashup of songs by NOFX and The Ramones. Even 37 years in, Pennywise’s energy was electrifying, and it was clear that every member of the band was having a blast performing.

Soon after, the Dropkick Murphys’ set opened with a surprise appearance from English singer and political activist Billy Bragg. He performed “There is Power in a Union” as he stood alone on stage. Equipped with a setup fit for the band’s 7 vocalists and instrumentalists, the Dropkicks rushed to join him for “Worker’s Song.” 

The energy in the room was palpable as the Dropkick Murphys wowed the crowd with an explosive set, not wasting a single moment. The entire group’s energy was unmatched, but multi-instrumentalist Campbell Webster often stole the show with crowd-pleasing bagpipe solos. 

Throughout their performance, Dropkick Murphys’ setlist spotlighted their hometown pride, with beloved highlights including “The Queen of Suffolk County,” “Tessie,” and “I’m Shipping up to Boston.”

Billy Bragg later took the stage, singing Woody Guthrie’s “Which Side Are You On?” and Bragg’s “All You Fascists” with the band. Casey then brought Gurthrie’s daughter, Nora, on stage, mentioning that Bragg and the Dropkick Murphys have both been honored to take on Guthrie’s unpublished lyrics during their careers –including Dropkick Murphys’ album “This Machine Still Kills Fascists” and Bragg’s “Mermaid Avenue”.

Casey also announced that this tour has raised around $200,000 for The Claddagh Fund – Dropkick Murphys’ charity foundation supporting a variety of community-based nonprofits, according to their website. This announcement was met with a huge round of applause before the band jumped back into their set for a strong finish and encore.

As someone uninitiated to Bostonian St. Patrick’s Day and Dropkick Murphys’ shows, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Ultimately, through a sea of green lights and outfits alike, this concert was a joy to witness, making it abundantly clear why these shows have become such a beloved tradition for Dropkick Murphys fans.