In an empty Fenway Park, the Boston roots-punk band played the first great rock show of the pandemic era, with help from Springsteen
With eight musicians in their current touring incarnation — bagpiper very much included — Boston roots-punk gods the Dropkick Murphys are one of the only bands who practically qualify as a mass gathering in their own right. But with their Streaming Outta Fenway show Friday night, they managed to put on the loudest, most joyful show of the pandemic era — with help from Bruce Springsteen — while adhering with admirable strictness to social-distancing guidelines. All it took was an eerily empty Fenway Park, a few cameras (most of them on flying drones), and a work-from-home rock legend joining in from the studio on his New Jersey farm.
The band spread out on the baseball diamond, with drummer Matt Kelly holding down second base — only co-lead singers Al Barr and Ken Casey roamed the field, taking care to stay apart. “It’s just the Dropkick Murphys here, sneaking into Fenway for a little concert,” Casey said. The band played a full-length set, from the excellent new Clash tribute “Mick Jones Nicked My Pudding” to a blazing “Amazing Grace” to the inevitable “Shipping Out to Boston.” Towards the end, Casey asked, “Is New Jersey in the house?” and there was Springsteen on the Diamond Vision screen, ready for his first plugged-in, full-band performance since the pandemic began.
They started with “Rose Tattoo,” a 2013 song by the band that Springsteen had previously collaborated with them on, and then slammed into Springsteen’s very Dropkicks-ish/Pogues-like composition “American Land,” with its ever-relevant message: “They died to get here a hundred years ago/ they’re still dying now/ The hands that built the country/ we’re always trying to keep down.”
It was ever-so-slightly bittersweet to see a band that thrives on live call-and-response play to silence, and equally so to see how much energy Springsteen put across alone on his farm instead in front of a teeming crowd of tens of thousands. But it was still a miracle – a great, live rock concert, in a time when such things were starting to feel impossible. The show benefited three charities: the Boston Resiliency Fund, Habitat for Humanity Greater Boston and Feeding America.
(The Springsteen segment can be seen starting at 2:14:00.)