Celtic music replaced Celtics basketball for a night in the TD Garden when the Dropkick Murphys began their annual St. Patrick’s Day homecoming concerts on Friday with 7-band, two-stage festival.
Sun Cooked, Bryan McPherson, and the Old Brigade played a small stage set up in the Garden concourse, while Old Man Markley, the Mahones, and Black 47 played on the main stage leading up to the Murphys. Like the headliners themselves, most of the other bands were hardly traditional but did bear some sort of Celtic streak in their work, be it the instrumentation or attitude. Only Boston’s Old Brigade — a band celebrated in a couple of Murphys songs — played a set you’d expect to hear in a pub.
Black 47 and McPherson highlighted the political and social commentaries in Irish folk music. Old Man Markley and Sun Cooked captured the fevered musicianship of Celtic music. And the Mahones delivered the sort of stripped-down Celtic-punk sound that informed the Murphys’ early work.
But you don’t sell more than 8,000 tickets to the Garden by staying a scrappy punk band. The Murphys have settled into something that is part cult, part institution. The band’s 90-minute set had hits (“Shipping Up to Boston”), fan favorites (“The Dirty Glass,” with Nora Parkington singing the song’s female role), and a lot of new fuel (nine songs from the band’s latest record made it into the set).
The band delivered the expected goods: step dancers trotted out during “Prisoner’s Song,” (with Murphys chief Ken Casey pointing out his daughter); the band played traditional songs such as “Irish Rover”; and for some old-school punk, they played “Citizen CIA” and “Barroom Hero.”
The Murphys continue with shows Saturday at Brighton Music Hall and Sunday at House of Blues.