Plenty of bands use their instruments as layers, intended to supply a variety of sonic colors or fill in different areas of the bigger picture. Not the Dropkick Murphys. They use their instruments for impact, full stop. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a three-guitar roar or a lineup featuring bagpipe, accordion, and banjo; the result is a high-density blast. But on Wednesday, the first show of a fully sold-out, three-night St. Patrick’s Day run at the House of Blues (with shows to follow this weekend at Agganis Arena and Brighton Music Hall), the sound the band produced wasn’t at all muddled.
Just the opposite, in fact. The lack of differentiation between instruments — such as the way it was nearly impossible to distinguish where Lee Forshner’s bagpipes ended and Tim Brennan’s guitar began — only served to fuse the entire band into a single, solid entity. And for all of their plundering of Irish iconography and musical tradition, the Murphys’ true core principle is, and always has been, unity.
When the band offered to open up their veins in “Blood,” it was hard not to believe they meant it. Every chorus sounded like it was meant to be chanted by a bar full of rowdy punters — the entire vocal of “I’m Shipping Up to Boston” was handed over to the crowd, in fact — and the concert ended with a mass of women (and a few men) from the audience flooding the stage for the warm farewell of “Until the Next Time.”
The song’s clipped ELO-style bounce was an unusual departure for the Murphys, but it still maintained the thunderous boom inherent to all of their songs. It was there in the headlong “Sunday Hardcore Matinee,” the sad, martial punch of “Fields of Athenry,” and the rough snarl in an otherwise faithful cover of the Cars’ gliding “Just What I Needed.” Even “4-15-13,” the band’s paean to the regular folks affected by the Boston Marathon bombings, sustained a galvanized rumble without a single electric guitar.
Except for a small handful of songs that referenced, directly or indirectly, the opioid crisis, the Murphys offered little specific to unify against. And with singers Ken Casey and Al Barr serving as the (mostly) composed centers of the storm while three guitarists raged around them, it was enough to simply offer catharsis in togetherness, whatever punches the world may throw.
Providence’s Reason to Fight opened with grinding townie hardcore followed by the Interrupters, whose Rancid-style punk-ska was appropriately springier, though they performed with more gusto than precision.
With the Interrupters and Reason to Fight
At House of Blues, March 15Marc Hirsh can be reached at email@example.com and on Twitter @spacecitymarc.