St. Patrick’s Day came early to downtown Albany on Sunday night.
Boston-based Celtic punk band Dropkick Murphys headlined the inaugural show at the Albany Capital Center on Eagle Street, and bars nearby were mobbed with people drinking Guinness and dressed in Kelly green.
Mayor Kathy Sheehan had welcomed the long-running band to Albany by declaring it “Dropkick Murphys Day” and promoting the group’s charity, the Claddagh Fund, which supports children and vulnerable populations.
“We got the key to the goddamn city today,” said Murphys’ bassist Ken Casey when the band took the stage following performances by New York City hardcore legends Agnostic Front and Boston ska-punk band Bim Skala Bim.
It was the first major show at the spanking new facility, part of the 159,000-square-foot Capital Complex, and they’re still working out some logistical kinks, it seems — at least for such a large concert of 4,000 people.
Bottlenecks in the hallways made some of the food and drink lines nearly impassable, and it was a struggle to get to the merchandise table — where Agnostic Front singer Roger Miret was signing copies of his gritty memoir, “My Riot,” early in the night.
Upstairs, accessible by escalator, the main room looked like a giant carpeted conference room — albeit one with a massive sound system and a nifty grid of festive purple lights flashing on the ceiling overhead.
Overall, it was a festive crowd. Massive lines outside the men’s rooms caused some men to take refuge in the much-emptier women’s rooms, which led to some comic, high-spirited heckling of the men who dared to switch sides.
It’s not hard to see why the Murphys have such appeal. They have a big, powerful sound — driven by three guitarists, multiple singers and even a bagpipe player — with huge anthemic choruses.
The group rarely let up during their propulsive 25-song set, which included the stomping “The Boys Are Back,” “Gonna Be a Blackout Tonight,” “The Gang’s All Here,” the more reflective “Rose Tattoo” and a two-song encore including big hit “I’m Shipping Up to Boston.”
The bands — all high-energy with an accessible side — got the crowds moving from the start.
“I want to see you all bounce around a little bit,” said Bim Skala Bim frontman Dan Vitale during an opening set that included “Wise Up,” “Diggin a Hole,” “Set Me Up” and “8 Track Mind.”
They were infectious party songs driven by the band’s “Boston blue beat” sound (a mix of rock and roll, third-wave ska, Calypso and Reggae) and propelled by the wild and wooly trombone playing of Vince Nobile.
Bim Skala Bim closed with a cover of Pink Floyd’s “Brain Damage,” turning the morbid lament of the original into a rollicking tongue-in-cheek celebration of the narrator’s lunacy.
The New York City-Boston rivalry goes beyond baseball; in the days of 1980s hardcore, it extended to a rift between punk bands from both cities. But New York’s Agnostic Front and Boston’s Dropkick Murphys managed to form a friendship that continues today.
“Maybe tonight we have the Boston people outnumbered,” said Miret during Agnostic Front’s
rowdy performance, urging the crowd to get some circle pits going.
The band’s set lamented the days of New York City when it was gritty and violent but more real (“Old New York” and “All My Family”); celebrated misfits and freaks on “Crucified”; and revisited the classic “Victim in Pain” album on the title track and “United and Strong.”