Dropkick Murphys @ Aragon Ballroom, Chicago (US)

DROPKICK MURPHYS / CLUTCH / HATEBREED / AMIGO THE DEVIL

Date: 30th September, 2019
Venue: Aragon Ballroom
Ticket: $33 / €30
Promoter: n/a


This time of the year there are a lot of concerts happening very close to each other (at least we did not have any crazy conflict) and this can be quite challenging, especially if you hate missing some good action. And this event was one of those ‘not to be missed’ shows featured our beloved DROPKICK MURPHYS who this time around have picked the amazing Stoner rockers of CLUTCH and then made the deal even sweeter by adding HATEBREED on the equation. That’s an interesting mix, wouldn’t say? You bet it was, but it was on a Monday and that meant facing the monster called ‘Chicago evening commute’ that sometimes can be brutal. Fortunately it wasn’t - at least that much... I mean, we entered the venue to see HATEBREED finishing up “Destroy Everything” and even though most of the audience had come to see DROPKICK MURPHYS, the Metalcore band did have a solid support.

“It is great to be back in this venue after being banned”, said Jamey Jasta recalling the riots that happened before a show supporting SLAYER few years back. I have no idea or knowledge what had happened and I am super thankful that the only “violence” we witnessed that night was in the form of three circlet pits. Yeah, HATEBREED got the audience going and I got some joy watching some members of the crowd reacting to this as if this was new to them. Or maybe it was because DROPKICK MURPHYS and HATEBREED do not actually have lots in common as far as music style goes. Well, it is best to educate yourself before getting into any concert because a) you may miss additional fun when knowing the band and some songs, and b) you may feel “annoyed” when the audience forms a circle pit making the blood flow a little bit faster (yup, I actually witnessed a lady complaining about this...). I liked how Jamey tried to get more bodies into the action by calling the non-participants as circle-pit retirees and even though this may hurt a bit, it makes sense to everyone who has crossed the 45 years of age mark. Still, I totally enjoyed what I saw from HATERBREED to that extent that this may have been the best one. Don’t you love seeing so much action on and off stage with the music pumping loud and clear? Oh yeah, it was awesome hearing “Looking Down The Barrel Of Today” and the full of attitude pissed off “I Will Be Heard”. Lots of kudos to the guys inside the pits for making us forget that this was another lousy Monday.

Come to think of it, this would be the first time seeing CLUTCH in a big venue and I was a bit worried whether the connection between the audience and the band would be lost a bit inside the big photo pit in front of the stage. Well, I guess I had forgotten how powerful of a “preacher” Neil Fallon is. I was soon to found out of course, but at the same time I was prepared to see my socks being blown off considering my past experience in CLUTCH shows. After the taped intro (yup, I’m talking about the Funky “We Need Some Money”), it was time to get the show started with the basslines served by Dan Maines. “Profits Of Doom” lifted the curtain, with Tim Sult in his trademark ‘I am minding my own business” unique guitar playing, putting groove in bold and golden letters. It is amazing to watch Neil and how he interacts with the crowd. There are times that he looks like a teacher who pointing at you to make his point clear and others when he looks like a preacher who is determined to make you a die-hard believer starring straight into your soul. Jean-Paul Gaster set an almost funky tone with some sweet hi-hat action in “Passive Restraints” before getting back into the Stoner Rock groove of “The House That Peterbilt”. CLUTCH have this unique ability to change styles while going back and forth into their rich backcatalogue without losing an inch in terms of power being a genuine live band. I mean, the studio albums get ten times better in concert because seeing these fine musicians delivering the goods really elevates the entire experience. This may sound strange when thinking that Tim rarely leaves his spot (he barely takes his eyes from his guitar) but his tone and smooth playing could easily be included in a seminar to guitarists.

It was time to bring a second guitar onstage and for Neil to ask “forgiveness from Mr. Gibbonswith “A Quick Death In Texas” and the groove-setter cowbell sounds. I have to note that the audience seemed to really love all those “bourbon-smelling” songs and that’s totally understandable because Stoner Rock has a lifetime guarantee for having fun. “I woke up this morning in a grumpy mood” admitted Neil before adding that the Aragon crowd has changed this for better. The best reward we received was the faster “Noble Savage” and the singing-along “The Face”. After this duo, I cannot agree more with the band’s frontman on getting a mood booster watching CLUTCH delivering the goods and the audience being in tune and totally awake. Yeah, the beer was flowing and the party mood had touched everyone insider the venue.

“Right back at you, Chicago”, said Neil after another powerful song-duo acknowledging the audience’s participation in the show. CLUTCH is definitely not a band to sit down and watch perform. No, you’ve got to add your own sweat on the show and get your eardrum blown away (not literally) by the groove-infested songs like the hard pounding “Gimme The Keys” that saw some mosh-pit action. “There is a pit there, and a pit over there” said Neil taking note of the different circle-pit locations and then he added: “for a moment, those came together and became one, and it was so romantic”, before christening himself as The Pit Matchmaker; cool, huh? But the fun didn’t stop there, since it was time to go back to the ‘90s via CLUTCH’s time-machine; “this next one is about picking up hitchhikers in the early 1990s, it’s a very specific scenario”, were Neil’s exact words introducing us the groovy “In Walks Barbarella”, and I could not but to think the cool music video this one has. The CACTUS’ cover on “Evil” saw Neil getting close to the edge of the stage as possible posing with his evil-er face expressions while pointing out his hand-horns every time during the refrain and the crowd was singing-along. And yes, this kind of magic happens only during a live show.

Thank you very much for listening tonight everybody”, said Neil before grabbing his acoustic guitar for the last time (for that show of course), and somehow I knew it was time for the crowd-pleaser “Electric Worry”; the way this track works live after all these years still impresses me, and every time I get to hear it, it feels like the first one. Its overall addictive tune, the Bluesy / Southern guitar licking and the crowd’s participation on the ‘vamanos’ beloved part deplete every drop of energy left and it’s impossible for anyone with working ears to not sing, foot-tap or fist-pump during this one. “You’ve been fantastic, Chicago”, were Neil’s last words right before “Rats” that dropped the curtain on the highest of notes, putting in the books one more high-energy from start to finish show served by CLUTCH. Till next time, gents!

CLUTCH setlist:

01. “Profits Of Doom”
02. “Passive Restraints”
03. “The House That Peterbilt”
04. “A Quick Death In Texas”
05. “Noble Savage”
06. “The Face”
07. “Willie Nelson”
08. “Vision Quest”
09. “Gimme The Keys”
10. “Book Of Bad Decisions”
11. “In Walks Barbarella”
12. “Evil”
13. “Electric Worry”
14. “Rats”

CLUTCH

Clutch @ Aragon Ballroom (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Clutch @ Aragon Ballroom (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Clutch @ Aragon Ballroom (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Clutch @ Aragon Ballroom (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Clutch @ Aragon Ballroom (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos)
Clutch @ Aragon Ballroom (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Clutch @ Aragon Ballroom (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Clutch @ Aragon Ballroom (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Clutch @ Aragon Ballroom (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Clutch @ Aragon Ballroom (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos)

(click to enlarge)


It took a while to recover from the CLUTCH set as I needed some time to digest the fact that the band from Maryland is awesome, no matter the size of the stage or the setlist they chose to play, and that’s an impressive feat. Was it a bad move from DROPKICK MURPHYS to have them in the billing and try to compete their energy? Oh man, was I for a wild ride... You see, I have seen the MURPHYS in the past and, in fact, my first time was at the same venue some 11 years ago, so I was determined that I had seen everything from them. I mean, this is a consistent band and therefore I thought I knew what I was getting... Well, “thought” is the key word here...

There were some stairs placed at the center of the stage leading into the photo-pit and that looked a bit strange. Anyways, we were soon to find out with the “Foggy Dew” taped intro getting the audience into the appropriate Irish mood... The combination of these melodies with the marching drums and flutes with the audience’s excitement was amazing to experience. Lee Forshner showed up first in full traditional attire and started playing the bagpipe part of “Cadence To Arms”. If the Sinéad O’Connor sung “Foggy Dew” had failed to put everyone in the right mood then this intro definitely sealed the deal. And then… boom; the band showed up and the atmosphere dived headfirst into Punk... That’s right; “The Boys Are Back In Town” was performed with the maximum possible energy with Ken Casey and Al Barr practically running all the way to the edge of the stage and then getting into the photo-pit. I surely I was not prepared for this and I am so grateful that I hadn’t done any YouTube studying before the show because the energy I got just from these guys was amazing. The audience picked up on this energy and right there, the show opener felt like it was in the middle of the set. And the band did not slow down, and in fact, I believe DROPKICK MURPHYS pushed even harder with “The Fighting 69th”. Oh yeah, dancing was immediately placed on top of the list because singing-along had already become our first reaction.

“How is it going, Chicago? We are DROPKICK MURPHYS from Boston, Massachusetts. Thank you for letting us having the greatest job on earth for 35 years”, said Ken before letting Tim Brennan laying down another dancing along tune with his accordion raising the temperature ever more with “Out Of Our Heads”. One would expect to see the band slowing down after such an “explosive” intro but there were no signs of wear of tear on and off stage. Yeah, the audience loved the MURPHYS and whenever Al or Ken stepped on the barrier they were there to sing along, fist-pump and for a moment become part of the show. Although, I should correct myself by saying the entire crowd inside Aragon looked part of the show with people circle dancing (is “circle-pit” an already claimed term? If it is not, consider it claimed right there...)

I have no idea how this band does this, but it feels like these gentlemen are speaking straight to the heart of the blue-collar workers feeding the stay united attitude that sadly is fading away in this modern age. “Blood” is the right example of this and really, it felt amazing to see fists in the air singing-along “if you want blood we’ll give you some” getting a sense of unity and being part on the same team. Again, this goes against the modern “tide” that wants people divided (and conquered) by finding any reason under the sun to split everyone into groups. Anyways, the drum intro ramped up the bpms with “I Fought The Law” keeping the singing-along loud and adding more fists pumping in the air. It is amazing to see that these oldies are still getting the response for a crowd that I have to say featured people from all walks of life making the whole experience even cooler. If you believe that music should be only for the scholars, then you surely do not have your ducks in a row and maybe, I said maybe you belong to the category of the song that followed… Seriously now, Ken almost sounded the title of “First Class Loser” most probably being the loud voice everyone wish to have in some occasion in their life. And this is another success in DROPKICK MURPHYS arsenal and has to do with writing songs that are totally relatable. With picture of people fighting wars that some other people had started did bring some emotion that turned into more energy for the dancing along “Johnny, I Hardly Knew Ya” that was cleverly paired with banjo driven “Prisoner’s Song”. It was time to prove that music unites us all and this is exactly what Ken and Al asked to do; well not exactly but they did say to extent an arm left and right and stand shoulder to shoulder like best buddies and I think this is exactly what happened with more people dancing around during “Caught In A Jar”; was it cool or what? “We like to pay tribute to bands from Boston” was Ken’s way to introduce THE CARS cover on “That’s What I Needed” that was also farewell to Ric Ocasek who passed away 15 days before this show.

What would you expect from a song titled “(F)lannigan's Ball”? More dancing of course taking over the huge arena of Aragorn Ballroom and if my eyes did not deceive me, I think I saw Ken throwing the mic to a couple of fans in the front rows to take over the lead-singing role… That was extremely cool and was the final blow on any wall that you may think that is separating a band from the fans. Sure, this may applicable to other bands but not for DROPKICK MURPHYS who really look like one of us. Both the band and the audience were in the zone, and after the rather sad “4-15-13”, it was time to head towards a powerful ending, starting off with the crowd pleaser “The State Of Massachusetts”, and everybody was jumping up and down. “Worker's Song” (rather fitting these days, don’t ya think?) and “Going Out In Style” followed back-to-back with the band saying goodnight. Yeah right, as if anyone would start moving towards the exit... No, it was time for the “let’s go MURPHYS chant to demand an encore. “Rose Tattoo” was the first of the three during which a member of the stage-crew started inviting people to join the band onstage… Sure, it was mainly ladies, but later on this “protocol” was broken… “I’m Shipping Up To Boston” and “Until The Next Time” sounded ten times better with all sort of fans sharing the stage with the band; you had your selfie takers, your “I was there too” fans, your everyday metalheads and those who had a blast with their favorite band. In other words, an amazing experience that has been permanently imprinted as a great memory. Is this the ultimate goal for live shows? Definitely it is until the next time and it’s a farewell and not a goodbye.

P.S: Watching Ken soaked to the bone with sweat taking selfies with everyone onstage without complaining was the icing on the cake and a solid proof how down-to-earth this band is. Thank you, guys!

DROPKICK MURPHYS setlist:

01. “Cadence To Arms”
02. “The Boys Are Back”
03. “The Fighting 69th”
04. “The Burden”
05. “Out Of Our Heads”
06. “Rocky Road To Dublin”
07. “Blood”
08. “I Fought The Law”
09. “First Class Loser”
10. “Johnny, I Hardly Knew Ya”
11. “Prisoner's Song”
12. “Caught In A Jar”
13. “Just What I Needed”
14. “(F)Lannigan's Ball”
15. “4-15-13”
16. “The State Of Massachusetts”
17. “Worker's Song”
18. “Going Out In Style”
19. “Rose Tattoo”
20. “I’m Shipping Up To Boston”
21. “Until The Next Time”

DROPKICK MURPHYS

Dropkick Murphys @ Aragon Ballroom (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Dropkick Murphys @ Aragon Ballroom (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Dropkick Murphys @ Aragon Ballroom (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Dropkick Murphys @ Aragon Ballroom (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Dropkick Murphys @ Aragon Ballroom (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos)
Dropkick Murphys @ Aragon Ballroom (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Dropkick Murphys @ Aragon Ballroom (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Dropkick Murphys @ Aragon Ballroom (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Dropkick Murphys @ Aragon Ballroom (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Dropkick Murphys @ Aragon Ballroom (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos)
Dropkick Murphys @ Aragon Ballroom (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Dropkick Murphys @ Aragon Ballroom (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Dropkick Murphys @ Aragon Ballroom (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Dropkick Murphys @ Aragon Ballroom (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Dropkick Murphys @ Aragon Ballroom (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos)

(click to enlarge)