There’s been an experiment I’ve been doing of late that has been yielding some pretty great results in terms of me enjoying and becoming better attached with music. It’s quite easy. You shut off this computer or iPad or phone or whatever. You go see a show. Caveat? Don’t listen to the band before. Go on a friend’s recommendation; one you trust. When you’re done, come back and listen to the band’s music.
You’ll like it better than if you did record then show.
I bring this up because music these days thrives on the stage, a welcome resurgence that is giving our generation what could be some of the best local and touring music we’ve seen. Let’s thank the Internet for this. It’s also thanks to it you can follow an underground band over more than a decade from humble rip-roaring shows to taking over an entire week and having The Boss himself show up on your album. Dropkick Murphys have done that. Yes, I’ll come out and say it now, with a formula-but one that seriously works that will endure thanks to their storied live shows. And yes, I’m not keen on special editions but the Fenway Park Bonus Edition essentially couples that aforementioned recorded experience with the live one that doesn’t feel like a marketing rehash. Going Out In Style (Fenway Park Bonus Edition) feels more like a 360° experience for your ears, without the pit bruises that would otherwise show up in the morning.
The live tracks selections are all culled from the main album, so it’s kinda that cold shower to those who still hesitate over old Sing Loud, Sing Proud! or Do or Die Dropkick versus the more recent Dropkick (I’d call it Post-Departed Dropkick). Album kicker “Hang ‘Em High” leads the live half, less polished, more ruckus, the way we like it. “Sunday Hardcore Matinee” comes up close behind as the second in the live setlist, which really shows how tour-seasoned Dropkick is in the sense its hard to hear too many differences between the two. They’re so tight, and without much audience ambiance during the breakdown, it feels as if they recorded a studio track live instead of being in Fenway. “Deeds Not Words” starts with slightly off-kilter bagpipes, unlike the studio version, as if Scruffy Wallace had rushed to the venue late. Probably one of the few times I’d take the crisp version over the other.
Thankfully we get much needed on-stage conversations, which truly liven things up after “The Irish Rover.” You don’t get something as hilarious as the Blue Meanies after “Polka in the Eye” on A Documentation of Exhibition and Banter (“We have a new term for our style of music.” ‘What is it?’ “It’s called music.” ‘Uh…yes…thank you. Thank you for coming to hear music’). But then again, “Take ‘Em Down” strikes straight to the heart of Irish punk, which goddamn it makes you wish you could experience it in a pub.
Moving to the studio album itself, it’s the same Dropkick you would expect. If it deters you, don’t as “Going Out In Style” with Fat Mike and Chris Cheney of The Living End, “The Hardest Mile,” “Deeds Not Words,” and “Take ‘Em Down,” are the beachheads that will drive you past the shorelines and deeper into the provinces of the album. Yet Dropkick should exploit these more, letting either of those guest appearances be more than that to shake things up a bit more. More songs like “Peg O’ My Heart” (and yes, that’s Bruce Springsteen) do the band justice and create the memorable moments people crave during the live shows.
While you ain’t going to have stripped down moments like “Far Away Coast” blessing Do Or Die, Going Out In Style is pure Dropkick. It’s what you’d expect to get, but with a few surprises. If you’re a seasoned veteran, it’s a must to get the Fenway edition. If you’ve just been called up, it’s a good starting point that’ll lead to some gems when you dip back into their past.