Dropkick Murphys at Paramount Theater Denver
There was a fear amongst longtime fans that Dropkick Murphys’ recent album, This Machine Still Kills Fascists, a collection of unpublished Woody Guthrie songs released in September, would shave some of the edge off the legendary Celtic punk band. Couple that with an all-acoustic, reserved seat-only tour, and concerns only grew. Turns out, the worry was all for naught. The record itself, backed by Guthrie’s kindred, rebellious spirit, hit as hard any anything the Murphys have ever done – fast, loud and abrasive when necessary. And the idea of a “seated” show evaporated into the cold, snowy Denver night the instant that lead singer/chief agitator Ken Casey stomped onto the Paramount Theater stage. No matter what, this was gonna be a rock show.
Openers Jesse Ahern and Jaime Wyatt helped warm up the frozen crowd. Ahern mostly played the role of acoustic troubadour, but with an edge befitting the headliner and a pro-labor message to match, including the sing-along “I Drive a Truck.” Wyatt also came out and joined him on “The Older I Get.” Wyatt, accompanied by her electric guitar player, came out and performed her own set, including country rocker “Neon Cross,” the new song “Fugitive” and a swampified cover of Dax Riggs’ “Demon Tied to a Chair in My Brain.”
Dropkick Murphys may no longer be the scruffy young punk legends out of Quincy, and they may have packed only acoustic instruments and opted to leave the bagpipes at home, but bandleader Ken Casey hit the stage with enough energy to make longtime fans forget about what wasn’t there. After honoring Guthrie by playing his version of “This Land is Your Land” as walk-up music (eliciting a sweet, respectful sing-along from the crowd), the anthemic, resilient “Ten Times More” led off the set, with Casey pacing the stage, slapping hands with the audience and generally enjoying the hell out of being Ken Casey (and, really, who wouldn’t).
Throughout the show, the new songs hit as well as the old favorites – again, these are absolute rock songs, not old dudes sitting in chairs strumming away (although one audience member enjoyed a good-natured, back-and-forth heckling with Casey about liking the “old stuff” better. There’s always one). And, along with the messages inherent in Guthrie’s lyrics, Casey took several opportunities to celebrate union workers, military members, first responders and even “good” cops who might be among the listeners (much more than the vague lip service you might hear at an average radio-friendly country show). Even with all of the loud, jagged moments, the duet with Wyatt on “Never Git Drunk No More” (a rumination on the struggles of sobriety that both singers have dealt with) featured genuinely pretty vocals from Casey.
But those rough edges were the best part of the night. Band classics “Rose Tattoo” and “I’m Shipping up to Boston” (the latter also penned by Guthrie) slammed like they always do. The new “Dig a Hole” is a cold, dank, yet oddly joyous ode to burying Nazis which became a cathartic, amazing experience live. And set closer “Kiss Me, I’m Sh!tfaced,” a St. Paddy’s Day anthem that was never meant to be, wrapped up a tour of the complete Dropkick experience – a band whose renewed mission is to be deep, dark and gleefully dumb as f@ck, all in one night.
Go here to order This Machine Still Kills Fascists (CD and streaming available now, vinyl released November 11): https://dropkickmurphys.store/
Read the Americana Highways album review here: https://americanahighways.org/2022/09/28/review-dropkick-murphys-this-machine-still-kills-fascists/
Check out tour dates on the band’s website: https://dropkickmurphys.com/