LOWELL - It may have been the first concert at the ballpark where the Lowell Spinners ply their trade, but Thursday's doubleheader between the Dropkick Murphys and Mighty Mighty Bosstones felt as natural a fit as Boston world championships do these days.
Under sunny skies at LeLacheur Park and nestled along the outfield wall in deep center field, the two leading lights of Boston's Irish punk scene shared both stage and spotlight, paying homage to their roots, each other, and the fans who had brought them to the green, grassy diamonds of their dreams.
More than anything, that's really what Bosstones' and Dropkicks' shows have always been about: community, communion, and a shared spirit (not to mention, shared spirits). And, of course, a mutual love of full-throttle punk mixed in with the bouzoukis and bagpipes.
As ever, the Mighty Mighty Bosstones - now the elder statesmen of the Boston ska-punk scene they almost single-handedly launched during the 1980s - were fierce, fun, and acutely focused on the business at hand: namely, mixing up the mayhem.
Led by consummate showman and frontman Dicky Barrett, the plaid-clad Bosstones barreled through a bruising 75-minute set of nearly two dozen brass-stoked ska-punk anthems such as "The Rascal King," "Where'd You Go?," and "Don't Worry Desmond Dekker," the latter a heartfelt tribute to the late reggae singer-songwriter.
A faithful cover of the Clash's "Rudie Can't Fail" was, as usual, a can't-miss highlight. Another was the revved-up reading of "The Impossible Dream," which Barrett dedicated to Red Sox Hall of Fame outfielder Carl Yastrzemski, whose 1967 championship team is inextricably linked to that Broadway standard.
The Bosstones knew their baseball, and so did the Dropkicks. Their tune "Tessie" - a call-to-arms that tells how the "Royal Rooters" helped the Boston Americans win the 1903 World Series - has made a mighty bid to usurp Neil Diamond's "Sweet Caroline" as the de facto Sox rallying cry. They performed the fan favorite, of course, and then threw in another Fenway Park perennial: a cover of the Standells' garage-rock ditty "Dirty Water," capping an exuberant 90-minute set bookended by fireworks.
The Murphys, who are touring this summer with the Bosstones in tow for several dates, including a show tonight at McCoy Stadium in Rhode Island, know a thing or two about showmanship themselves. With bagpipes blasting all around him (and later, a gaggle of dancing elementary-age schoolgirls in tutus), lead singer Al Barr bounded onstage and lit into "For Boston," a blistering Celtic punk toast to the city with its chant, "drink, drink, drink!" As if the faithful needed prodding.
There were more gruff, jubilant odes to tradition and trouble: "Pipebomb on Lansdowne"; "Fields of Athenry"; and the rousing stadium singalong "I'm Shipping Up to Boston." Placed alongside traditional Irish folk classics such as "Black Velvet Band," the Dropkicks' own compositions sounded at once timely and, in their own way, timeless.