Having seen Dropkick Murphys several times in the past, I was confident that their latest tour in support of the recently released Signed and Sealed In Blood would live up to my high expectations. The venue: Manchester’s HMV Ritz - a somewhat unusual choice given that it is dwarfed by the band’s previous Mancunian venues, The Academy and the O2 Apollo. However, a smaller venue rarely spoils live music and indeed on the night proved only to add to the Celtic punk atmosphere.
The first band to the stage is Cornwall’s Crowns. Their blend of acoustic folk and punk (not dissimilar to Frank Turner’s output) goes down well with the crowd, their closing track 'Full Swing' living up to its name. The Cornish folk-punks are closely followed by the appropriately-named Teenage Bottlerocket, who have been making their own brand of snotty skate-punk for twelve years now (think Tony Hawks Pro Skater soundtrack and you won't be far wrong). Fitting an impressive 14 songs in to their allotted 40 minutes including 'Skate or Die' and 'Headbanger', their set is as fast as it is tight.
Come 9:30pm, the ever-rousing chant of 'Let's go Murphys!' has run it's course and the band take to the stage, immediately bursting into the obvious choice of 'The Boys Are Back', which whips the crowd into a sweaty and boozy mass of bodies. Every song is sung by crowd and band alike as if it were the encore at their last ever show. New songs fit in beside the classics as if they've always been part of the set-list that, in keeping with the support, manages to fit 26 songs into 90 minutes. This allows DKM to play three-quarters of their new album, whilst still including fan favourites such as 'Boys on the Docks' and 'Shipping Up To Boston' – the latter of which gets quite possibly the loudest sing-a-long yet. 'Rose Tattoo', as expected, is another highlight, proving to be an instant classic taken from Signed and Sealed.
DKM’s encores are renowned for featuring stage invasions and tonight is no exception, with the stage being filled for the whole five songs - something the security don't seem too enamoured by. 'Barroom Hero' provides another rousing sing-a-long, as does 'End of the Night' - the only song taken from the new album to feature in the encore, but one which is as fitting as it is predictable. The set closes with an out of character cover of AC/DC's 'Dirty Deeds Done Cheap' – but the power of surprise only further proves that DKM are at the top of their game as a live band.
Indeed, ‘The Murphys’ are a band that need to be seen to understand just how seasoned and practiced they are. They are consistently good at what they do, and they enjoy what they do - something that becomes even more evident in venues such as this. Almost everyone is guaranteed to go home smiling, with more than a few staggering. This is good old-fashioned drinking music done to a t. And long may it carry on.