With their run of sold-out shows expanding each St. Patrick's Day, Celtic punk heroes the Dropkick Murphys have become as synonymous with the holiday as green beer has. But the band avoided such clichéd cuteness at the first of six sold-out shows at Avalon.
Instead, it charmed and incited a devoted crowd with its trademark mix of blistering punk and good-natured modesty.
The crowd's noisy anticipation grew as the traditional ''The Foggy Dew" played over a darkened stage that sported an enormous Dropkick Murphys banner. The scene then exploded, as the band ripped through 10 songs in 30 minutes. The group highlighted its tougher side with the snarling ''Gonna Be a Blackout Tonight." But its melodic Celtic influences were evident on the bagpipe-laced set opener, ''Worker's Song," and ''Bastards on Parade," with its jaunty, jitterbug beat and mandolin accents.
The band isn't just beloved for punk bravado, as it showed by enticing the crowd with a blend of hometown pride, cheeky humor, and shout-outs to loyal friends and fans. It has taken to letting a volunteer sing the song ''Barroom Hero," and the group made an enthusiastic audience member's night as he led the band.
Lawrence boxer Micky Ward was honored as an Irish-American hero with a song from the band's tentatively titled new album, ''The Warrior's Code," which is due in June. And before the melancholy punk ballad ''Forever," bassist Ken Casey offered a moving dedication to a woman whose husband was killed in Iraq.
It was all about the fans for the remainder of the set.
Singer Stephanie Dougherty provoked Casey during the inflamed duet ''Dirty Glass" before inviting a sea of girls onstage. Casey sang the bawdy last-call number, ''Kiss Me I'm [expletive]faced," to them gleefully.
The band's encore found Red Sox pitcher Bronson Arroyo introducing the curse-breaking baseball ditty ''Tessie" via a taped statement from spring training. The night ended with the taut rocker ''Skinhead on the MBTA," the stage bursting with audience members.
The band's legacy shone brightly in the night's opening acts, the Irish six-piece Blood or Whiskey (which had an even more Celtic-tinged punk sound than DKM) and the ska-tinged, New York City-based hardcore band H20.