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Dropkick Murphys bring in their Irish
By Steve Morse, Globe Staff, 3/12/2004

The Dropkick Murphys are keeping their tradition alive. Last year, the Murphys played four sold-out shows at Avalon during the week of St. Patrick's Day. They're up to five this year, which means a combined total of 10,000-plus fans will swing to the working-class rage 'n' roll of these Boston punkers before the engagement ends.

"Happy St. Patrick's Day. Or is it too early to say that?" Murphys singer Al Barr told last night's fever-pitch crowd. "Hey, it doesn't matter."

And off they went.

Time-wise, the shows don't coincide as well as they did last year with St. Patrick's Day, but that was soon forgotten as fans hoisted pints of Guinness and chanted in hockey-game style, "Let's go, Murphys! Let's go, Murphys!"

Barr & Co. didn't let them down. Flanked by a few dozen relatives and friends on stage -- that was a serious posse up there -- the Dropkick Murphys opened up the throttle and took off like a punk-rock dragster.

They hit a high-speed roar that had the crowd hopping around, pumping fists, and singing along to anthems of workers' rights, some of which made this much more than just a night of partying. Barr also made a dedication to soldiers serving overseas.

The Murphys, who have become huge stars in the past year through radio play and dates on the Vans Warped Tour and the WBCN River Rave, electrified last night's crowd with jolting takes on "This Is Your Life," "Worker's Song," and "Boys on the Docks." They also lifted off on "Do or Die" and "Skinhead on the MBTA," but they paused to do an AC/DC cover again. Last year it was "Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap." This year it was "It's a Long Way to the Top (If You Wanna Rock & Roll)."

Frontman Barr sang with such leather-lunged ferocity that one almost expected him to go hoarse any minute. Bassist Ken Casey also sang some gutsy leads, while a nice change of pace was provided by guest vocalist Stephanie Dougherty. And the two-guitar maelstrom of Marc Orrell and James Lynch made sure there was enough electricity to fuel a small city, though bagpipes and a tin whistle also cut through on some of the folksier tracks.

And just when you thought the climax had been reached, the Dropkicks returned for an in-your-face series of encores, accompanied by video footage of various Boston Bruins players dropping their sticks and brawling.

The adrenalin was pumping -- and it's a wonder that anyone in the crowd was able to get to sleep after this show.

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