Playing to a tenth-full Brixton Academy can be a pretty dispiriting task, but The Briggs don’t seem fazed. Their blue-collar punk rock bluster goes down well with the early birds, but the Academy’s acoustics don’t do them any favours. A shame, as tunes like ‘Back To Higher Ground‘ would probably sound genuinely anthemic in a small club.
The Mad Caddies clearly have several of their own fans in attendance tonight, a fact demonstrated by the healthy number of punters bouncing around in the pit like grasshoppers on hot coals. The rest of the crowd appear to be saving their energy (and enthusiasm) for the headliners, but the band themselves deliver a good mix of slower, reggae fare and up-tempo punk rock, with most of the usual favourites (‘Monkeys’, ‘Drinking For 11’, etc.) present and correct.
The Dropkick Murphys have been plying their trade for over a decade now, and they’ve picked up their fair share of detractors along the way. Their authenticity has frequently been called into question, due to the fact that they’re an American band playing music with a strong Irish folk influence. But the band’s Irish family heritage has been well documented, as has their pride and loyalty to their hometown (‘For Boston’, ‘I’m Shipping Up To Boston‘).
From the moment that they blast into the opening ‘Famous For Nothing’, Al Barr and co. sound nothing short of immense, and their delight is obvious as the crowd go utterly nuts; roaring themselves hoarse for the likes of ‘Boys On The Docks’ and ‘The Gauntlet‘. Impressive, indeed, but bassist Ken Casey’s self-deprecating banter is proof that his band haven’t let all this success go to their heads. They’ve always been the people’s rock band, and now they’re deservedly getting to play to more people than ever before – without losing any of the underdog determination and everyman spirit that got them here.
Keeping the diehard Dropkicks fans pleased was never going to be easy, but tonight’s set-list is pretty much as good a balance of the old and the new as you could wish for. The Academy’s security staff clearly aren’t pleased as hundreds storm the stage for the traditional finale of ‘Skinhead On The MBTA‘, but tonight the Dropkicks are calling the shots, and you get the feeling they wouldn’t want to end this any other way.