Dropkick Murphys + The Mahones + Blood or Whiskey @ O2 Academy, Birmingham – Sunday 22nd March 2015


Review by Gary O’Brien, photos by Russ Tierney

Tonight was the final night of Dropkick Murphy’s ‘Celtic Punk Invasion’ tour and it certainly lived up to its name!

Blood Or Whiskey
Blood Or Whiskey

First up were Dublin band Blood Or Whiskey who were an entertaining mix of traditional Irish music and SLF/Clash-like punk, and definitely an approach to punk from this side of the Atlantic, rather than the more hardcore sound often heard in American bands. A good way to start the evening and they got the crowd thoroughly warmed up.

The Mahones
The Mahones

Veteran Canadian band The Mahones were next and provided a more polished, professional, North American version of Celtic Punk. Singer/guitarist Finny McConnell and accordion player Katie McConnell formed a formidable visual attraction, with Katie being quite possibly the most physically flexible performer I have ever seen; it hurt my back just watching her! After around 40 minutes playing an engaging selection of tracks from their entire back catalogue, they ended by playing ‘Paranoid’ as a tribute to Brummie legends Black Sabbath.

Dropkick Murphys
Dropkick Murphys

After an intro of ‘The Foggy Dew’ by The Chieftains, Dropkick Murphys burst onto stage for an astonishing, energetic 90 minute set which belied the fact they had been on tour for over two months. The set list for the final night was selected by their road crew and proved to be a fantastic selection. With a sound that ranges from pure US Hardcore to gentle Irish ballads they kept the crowd on their toes for the entire set. Vocalist Al Barr prowled the stage like a prize-fighter when he wasn’t singing, which obviously enabled him to maintain the huge intensity that he managed to convey on every line he sang; even if his voice seemed a little shot after a long tour. Ken Casey also put everything into it, particularly on a cover of Stiff Little Fingers ’78 RPM’ on which he sounded like prime Jake Burns and if you shut your eyes you were at an SLF gig in the early 80’s! Security were kept busy with a constant stream of crowd surfers, some of whom, I’m sure I saw on three or four occasions.

Other highlights of the main set were ‘The Boys Are Back’ from 2012’s Signed And Sealed In Blood, a cover of Gang Green’s ‘Alcohol’ and heartfelt one/two of ‘Rose Tattoo’ and ‘Rocky Road To Dublin’. Special mention must be made of drummer Matt Kelly who absolutely nailed it all night with a brutal display.

For the last song of the main set, they bought out various members of Blood Or Whiskey and The Mahones for a raucous version of ‘I’m Shipping Up To Boston’; which is when the evening’s craziness REALLY started!

Dropkick Murphys
Dropkick Murphys

The first song of a five song encore was a cover of The Who’s ‘Baba O’Reilly’ with the originals synth part played brilliantly on a bouzouki by Jeff DaRosa and an absolutely fiery guitar solo by Tim Brennan to round it off. Next up was ‘Kiss Me, I’m Shitfaced’ where Casey invited all the females up on stage to serenade them. After that, it was no-holds barred as pretty much the whole audience ended up on stage for a closing trio of ‘Skinhead On The MBTA’, AC/DC’s ‘TNT and ‘Boys On The Docks’ with the band nowhere to be seen amongst the absolute chaos on stage.

It will be a long time before the O2 Academy see the likes of that again and ended a memorable gig on a fitting note.
Set list:
1. Intro: The Foggy Dew – The Chieftains w/ Sinead O’Connor
2. Your Spirit’s Alive
3. The Warrior’s Code
4. Gonna Be A Blackout Tonight
5. The Boys Are Back
6. Shattered
7. Alcohol (Gang Green cover)
8. Road Of The Righteous
9. Prisoner’s Song
10. Broken Hymns
11. Out Of Our Heads
12. Famous For Nothing
13. In The Streets Of Boston
14. Rose Tattoo
15. Rocky Road To Dublin (‘traditional’ cover)
16. Hang ‘Em High
17. Iron Chin (The Bruisers cover)
18. Forever
19. Time To Go
20. 78 RPM (Stiff Little Fingers cover)
21. Citizen C.I.A.
22. The State Of Massachusetts
23. I’m Shipping Up To Boston (with Blood or Whiskey & The Mahones)

24. Baba O’Riley (The Who cover)
25. Kiss Me, I’m Shitfaced
26. Skinhead On The MBTA
27. T.N.T. (AC/DC cover)
28. Boys On The Docks

 See more of Russ’ photos from the show here