Live: Dropkick Murphys, Houston

The Dropkick Murphys at Houston's House of Blues.

St. Patrick’s Day is not too far away, but we are going to be in the clutches of Austin’s South by Southwest cluster f**k that day. So a Dropkick Murphys visit to Houston’s House of Blues was certainly a good way to take an early dip into the drunken, green part of the season.

The Murphys are, of course, Boston’s answer to Irish rockers The Pogues and perhaps the true heirs apparent to those punk rock pioneers. Led by the tandem of lead singer Al Barr and bassist/vocalist Ken Casey, the band only occasionally takes its collective foot off the accelerator pedal during its shows – which means that the uptempo stompers make up about 90 percent of its setlist.

Husband-wife team Finny and Katie McConnell front The Mahones.

But you can’t deny the charm of “Peg O’ My Heart”  or the title song from the latest album Going Out In Style, as well as the rousing closer “The State of Massachusetts.”  The Murphys aren’t afraid to turn it up – my left ear is still ringing a bit the next day – but they still deftly manage to showcase the considerable skills of multi-instrumentalist Jeff DaRosa (who was so energetic and skillful it seemed he played at least two different stringed instruments each song!), bagpipist/tin whistler Josh “Scruffy” Wallace and lead guitarist Tim Brennan.

Toward the end of the Murphys’ set they pulled out some stools and did a few tunes acoustically, including the terrific “Warrior’s Code” and “Devil’s Brigade.” Then, after the rollicking one-two-three punch of “The Irish Rover,” “Captain Kelly’s Kitchen” and “The State of Massachusetts” to end the main set, for an encore the Murphys invited as many women onstage to slur and sway through a woozy “Kiss Me, I’m Shitfaced.” They shut the place with Brennan power-chording through a cover of AC/DC’s “Dirty Deeds Done Cheap” and a tag with “Citizen C.I.A.”

Frank Turner, left, poses with a happy fan.

The Murphys were supported by a strong opening bill of The Mahones, a Canadian quintet anchored aurally by lead singer and songwriter Finny McConnell and visually by accordionist Katie McConnell (yeah, they’re married). They got things jumping with their “Paint The Town Red” from the movie The Fighter.

And a good word for Frank Turner, an excellent English singer/songwriter who had some rockin’ songs. Even his fine band, roaring at top form, couldn’t obscure his clever and rousing lyrics, especially in the anthems “Rock and Roll Romance” and “I Still Believe.” Any time you get a chance to seek out Frank Turner (try an upcoming Dropkick Murphys date, maybe) please do so, and tell him we sent ya.

Dropkick Murphys official website

The Mahones official website

Frank Turner official website

"Kiss Me, I'm Shitfaced" was the Murphys' woozy encore.

YouTube: “Going Out In Style” by the Dropkick Murphys

YouTube: “Paint The Town Red” by the Mahones

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