LIVE REVIEW: Rancid/Dropkick Murphys @ UBC Thunderbird Arena

Usually, when something seems too good to be true, it probably is… but sometimes, you can strike lucky and 90s punk-rock legends Rancid and the Dropkick Murphys swing through your city co-headlining a tour together! The punk scene is not usually known for stadium shows, but this was not one to be missed.

On Tuesday night, months after tickets went on sale, a few thousand fans made their way to the Thunderbird Stadium at UBC for what promised to be an entertaining evening of punk rock.

With 4.30pm doors and opening acts Kevin Seconds (of 7 Seconds, currently touring as a solo artist) and UK Ska veterans The Selecter, the crowd were suitably warmed up for when Rancid took to the stage at the early time of 7pm, opening their set with the 1993 fan-favourite ‘Radio.’

Moving from ‘Radio’ to ‘Roots Radicals,’ then ‘Journey to the End of East Bay,’ both songs from their best-selling (and arguably their best) album …And Out Come the Wolves, the set was full of crowd-pleasing songs.

The band, who have remained consistent in sound over their 25-year career, still play with as much energy as when I first saw them live, which was around the time they released Indestructible, and as of yet, they show no signs of slowing down. The only noticeable difference being that Tim Armstrong’s hair seems to have migrated from the top of his head to under his chin, as in recent years he has ditched his signature mohawk for a new signature bearded look.

With the release of the new documentary Turn It Around: The Story of East Bay Punk in select movie theatres across America and Canada (although unfortunately not Vancouver), we can expect to see a bit more of Rancid around, at least for the time being. The documentary explores the punk scene in the East Bay area, which was responsible for launching the band’s successful career.

The majority of the set paid homage to Let’s Go and …And Out Come the Wolves with a few tracks from their self-titled record. However, the band squeezed in a number of songs from their latest album, Trouble Maker, which was released in June this year. Whilst the majority of fans were happily dancing and drinking through the newer songs, there were noticeably fewer people singing along.

Despite this, their latest record is not necessarily one to overlook, ‘An Intimate Close up of a Street Punk Trouble Maker’ is a fantastic track, sure to reignite your existing love for Rancid and to please new fans alike. (It would have been great to have heard them play that on Tuesday.) With a guest appearance from Kevin Bivona, guitarist from The Interrupters (a band signed to Armstrong’s Hellcat Records), who has also worked him previously on Transplants tracks, all- n all, it was an impressive set and would have been a great show had it just ended there; but it was about to get better.

At around 8.30pm, Dropkick Murphys took to the stage. Ditching the lengthy bar lines and heading out to the floor was definitely the right decision for all the fans (myself included) looking to grab a drink (or two) in between sets. In hindsight, any beers purchased at that point would only have ended up split on my own, or another unsuspecting person’s, clothing anyway.

Dropkicks kicked off their set with a cover of Sinead O’Connor’s ‘The Foggy Dew’ and proceeded to smash through a series of songs from across their catalogue of records.

2011’s Going Out in Style was the last Dropkick Murphys record I have owned; nonetheless, I was suitably satisfied with what their setlist had to offer. Like Rancid, Dropkicks had decided to play a selection of old favourites and crowd pleasers.

The Celtic punk rockers had the crowd moving from start to end. With standout tracks such as ‘Blood,’ a song that premiered last year just before the band released their latest album 11 Short Stories of Pain & Glory at the start of this year, and ‘Rose Tattoo,’ which had plenty of fans chanting along during the chorus.

Towards the end of their set, Dropkicks played the fan-favourite ‘I’m Shipping Up To Boston,’ which features the notable traditional Irish twist with the punk energy that Dropkick Murphys manage to inject into most of their songs. This song was met with drunken cheers, and at this point, there were few still people on the floor. I had heard great things about this band’s live performances, and they did not disappoint.

The band are known to invite a small crowd of fans onto the stage at the end of their sets, playing host to a small, onstage party, and Tuesday night certainly wasn’t an exception. During the song ‘Until the Next Time’ — which shares lyrics with the Vera Lynn song ‘We’ll Meet Again’ — security at the venue helped eager fans onto the stage. The song, off the band’s latest album, seemed a fitting sing-a-long to close a set with. However, as with Rancid’s newer songs, there were noticeably fewer people singing.

The highlight of the show was saved until the end of the night; the crowd was initially unsure if there was going to be an encore, but in time, both bands took to the stage again, together in front of a back drop featuring the highly recognizable tour artwork. Performing as a punk rock super group, they covered the likes of the Ramones’ ‘I Wanna Be Sedated,’ Johnny Cash’s ‘Folsom Prison Blues,’ and Sham 69’s belter ‘If the Kids Are United.’

That particular Sham 69 song was one of my earliest introductions to punk music — it was on an old compilation CD I owned. The lyrics of that song still remain relevant to this day and resonated with the crowd. It served as a reminder that despite the world outside, shows and live music are occasions that bring friends, and strangers alike, together — all for the sake of a good time.

It seemed a fitting way to end a show that had a notable theme of friendship; both bands have been touring similar circuits for the majority of their long careers. The bands go way back, Dropkick Murphys were even signed to Armstrong’s record label for a while. Touring together was just one of those things in life that made perfect sense.

The only downsides: The Bouncing Souls not opening for all of the dates on this tour… (I guess you can’t have everything.) Oh, and the show starting at 5.30pm on a Tuesday afternoon! What!?

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