Live Review: Dropkick Murphys - O2, Academy, Birmingham
22nd January 2023
Support: Pennywise, The Rumjacks, Jesse Ahern
Words: Cat Finch
Photos: Tim Finch
It’s been a great start to the year for live music, and in Birmingham especially where the Academy has seen sold out shows from Trivium and Sleep Token rock the building to its foundations, metaphorically speaking. This evening it’s time for the Irish American contingent to take over and another packed house sees a four band bill mesmerize the Brummie crowd.
Opening up the show early doors is the self proclaimed “roots rock rebel” Jesse Ahern. The one man show - just Jesse his acoustic guitar, a harmonica and a powerful, gravelly voice - take control of the Birmingham crowd. The Boston, Massachusetts native takes on that Irish American punk/rock style and melds in his own stylings for a unique performance. A cover of The Clash’s ‘Bankrobber’ has the crowd singing along and warms them up nicely for what is about to come.
Second band of the evening are Aussie Celtic punks, The Rumjacks, who slot in perfectly as a great aperitif to tonight’s main event. Their style matches the headliners with the Celtic punk vibe shining through. A set bookended by ‘One For The Road’ and ‘Irish Pub Song’ have the crowd singing along as the heat and the atmosphere starts to rise.
Pennywise are the most well known of the support acts on tonight’s menu. The Californians as far removed from Celtic punk as you can get whilst still remaining a suitable warm up act for tonight’s headliners. The Celtic aggression replaced by Californian angst yet the intensity remain the same. With songs dedicated to fellow Californian’s Suicidal Tendencies, this forty five minute segment packed a mean punch. It’s the first time this evening the fans get really rowdy, limbs flail in the pit and bodies come flying over the security barrier.
From the opening moments of ‘Fight Till You Die’, the band kick things off in style the punk rock attitude shining through. ‘Violence Never Ending’ and ‘Fuck Authority’ deliver the bands message, whilst a handful of covers pepper the solid set. Bad Religion’s ‘Do What You Want’ and the Ben E King classic ‘Stand By Me’ draws us near to the end before ‘Bro Hymn’ finishes us off.
Following a quick turn around it’s the turn of the Dropkick Murphys to shine. Through the dim lights candles flicker on stage, when the lights raise it reveals a Catholic themed set, candles, crosses and the Virgin Mary adorn the stage whilst the bagpipes of Campbell Webster draw us into ‘The Lonesome Boatman’.
The energy in the room is infectious, the fans are going mental as Ken Casey leans into the crowd to allow them to sing along to ‘The Boys Are Back’ and ‘Turn Up That Dial’.
The Massachusetts ensemble know how to work a crowd, and with the energy high, the band feed off it. Through ‘Middle Finger’, ‘Queen of Suffolk County’ and the classic ‘The State of Massachusetts’ the band are on fire, their mix of Celtic culture and punk rock fury is magical.
They may only play for an hour and a half this evening, but the twenty four song set is filled with band classics and a smattering of rousing covers. ‘Boys On The Dock’ leads us into ‘The Dirty Glass’ to finish off. Frank Sinatra’s ‘My Way’ accompanies the throngs of Birimingham punks as they part way with the band and leave the venue into the bitterly cold evening the UK’s second city has to offer up.