Dropkick Murphys Roll Into Bethlehem, PA 2-21-17

Bethlehem. Just the name conjures images of the blessed Virgin Mary beside an infant saviour in a manger, a beautiful bright star to guide the way, and an Irish drinking band, of course. On Tuesday, February 21, 2017, Dropkick Murphys rolled into the Sands Casino Bethlehem Events Center in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. An exciting early week concert event, it marked the beginning of their annual lead-up to Saint Patrick’s Day in Boston, this year in support of their new album, 11 Short Stories Of Pain & Glory. Adding to the excitement of a packed venue, The Interrupters and Blood or Whiskey provided fabulously fun support.

Blood Or Whiskey are authentic Celtic Punk straight out of Dublin, Ireland. They have been described as an Irish version of The Pogues, though the band themselves have reportedly drawn comparisons between their music and a hybrid cross of The Dubliners and The Clash. No matter how you describe them, Blood or Whiskey have four studio albums to their credit and have toured the world with everyone from Alkaline Trio, Rancid, and aforementioned The Pogues, and some unknown band called Dropkick Murphys, to Stiff Little Fingers, Manu Chao, and, oddly, All Time Low. Now, they have rejoined forces with the Dropkick Murphys.

Opening the show in Bethlehem on this evening, Blood or Whiskey played to a surprisingly packed arena despite their early slot. Their set was unfortunately short, though packed full of fun Celtic Punk: from infectious “Dirty Aul War” to the crowd sing-along “Poxy Pub,” Celtic “No Answers,” to danceable “Gone And Forgotten.” Blood or Whiskey are definitely for fans of Dropkick Murphys, Rancid, and their ilk. Think fun Ska Punk!

Fresh off their European tour supporting Green Day, The Interrupters are Ska Punk at its finest. Comprised of three brothers – Kevin (vocals/guitar) and twins Justin (bass) and Jesse (drums) – as well as Lead Vocalist Aimee Interrupter, this quartet hails from the City of Angels. With six years and two CDs under their belt, The Interrupters have toured with such Punk titans as Rancid, Bad Religion, The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, and many, many more. They are future Punk royalty, so pay attention, please.

On this first night of the tour, The Interrupters were amped to bring their brand of Ska Punk to Bethlehem. Performing in front of a simple banner that announced their name to the masses, Aimee and co. performed a fun, upbeat, and energetic set that got the crowd totally amped. They opened to the upbeat Ska of “A Friend Like Me,” then moved quickly into the anthemic sing-along “By My Side.” Aimee raced across the stage excitedly as they launched into Ska “Take Back the Power,” with the apropos lyrics, “Are you a leader or will you follow? Are you a fighter or will you cower? It’s our time to take back the power!”

The Interrupters performed a well-oiled, tight, and fabulous set that also included standouts “She Got Arrested” and “Liberty,” as well as crowd-favorite “Jenny Drinks.” When eldest Bivona brother Kevin took a self-described “Frank Sinatra moment” to introduce the band, the crowd went wild. Of course, the assembled masses went even more haywire for the band’s cover of Operation Ivy’s “Sound System.” The Interrupters ended their set on a serious high with “Family,” proclaiming that the audience were now officially all members of the band’s, yes, family.

There is absolutely no denying that Dropkick Murphys were the main attraction. Consider that the crowd was full of green, St. Patty’s Day garb, DKM tees, and one man in a kerry green, shamrock-stenciled suit, and it was beyond obvious that Bethlehem and Pennsylvania are full of die-hard Dropkick fans. From the flagrant streets of Beantown, Dropkick Murphys are the undisputed kings of Celtic Punk. Proud to be Boston Strong, this menagerie of musicians have twenty-one years and nine CDs to their credit. The aforementioned 11 Short Stories Of Pain & Glory was released just this past January, and there was certainly a plausible energy in the room building up to their introduction.

In the shadow of the old Bethlehem Steel Mill, a sold-out crowd at the Sands Casino Event Center were eager to hear the very first chords of the Dropkick Murphys’ St. Patty’s Day tour. Green was everywhere, the beer was plentiful, and the crowd was ready to rock. Dropkick Murphys appeared, backlit, on a black scrim to the sounds of “The Lonesome Boatman,” and the crowd went absolutely nuts. The seven-man-strong band immediately moved into brand new track “Rebels With A Cause,” and the crowd easily kept step.

These Boston Strong performers worked their way through a tight set that seamlessly blended fan favorites and brand new material. From the newest material -the comedic “I Had A Hat” to the Denis Leary-esque “First Class Loser,” and the slowed pace of “Paying My Way” and Rodgers & Hammerstein cover “You’ll Never Walk Alone” – the crowd and the band never once came up for air. Tracks off the new CD, such as “Blood,” were easy to sing-along to for even the laziest of fans thanks to a lyric video playing on a massive screen behind the band as they performed.

Anyone that knows anything about Dropkick Murphys understands that their charitable works are very close to the band-members’ hearts. Ken Casey took a moment behind the microphone to discuss charity with the assembled masses, especially noting that The Claddagh Fund – an organization that Casey himself founded – would have a trio of volunteers working the entire length of the tour. Perhaps most impressive was the fact that Casey noted that at DKM gigs alone, 21 people registered as bone marrow donors through the Love Hope Strength Foundation had been matched with those most in-need. That is 21 lives saved thanks to Dropkick Murphys’ concerts. Awesome work, boys!

They quickly returned to their brand of Punk, and the crowd’s favorites were those tried-and-true, red, white, and blue classic Dropkick Murphys’ tracks such as “The State of Massachusetts,” classic “The Wild Rover,” their mega-hit “Rose Tattoo,” haroo-haroo “Johnny, I Hardly Knew Ya,” and bagpipe-infused “The Boys Are Back.” Throughout their 25-song set, they also performed a blend of tracks from their entire oeuvre, including “The Warrior’s Code,” “Sunday Hardcore Matinee,” “Caps and Bottles,” “Going Out in Style,” “Barroom Hero,” and “Worker’s Song.”

A troupe of local Irish step dancers joined the band onstage for several songs including one of the band’s best-known and most beloved, “I’m Shipping Up to Boston.” For the very last song of the evening, Dropkick Murphys turned to their most recent CD and “Until the Next Time,” a quintessential farewell track. As is traditional in their sets, they invited fans up onto the stage for this last song. The stage was overloaded with love for these Bostonians as they sang out the apropos: “We’ll meet again; don’t know where, don’t know when. We all had a good time and we’re sad to see it end.” It was a perfect send-off for a fabulously fun night full of friendship, family, and Boston’s finest Celtic Punks. Do not hesitate to ‘get lucky’ and see this tour!

Dropkick Murphys will be co-headlining a summer tour. Stay tuned for more details.

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