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Dropkick Murphys return to Las Vegas this weekend

Their voices rise from the gut to the heart, born in the former, thundering to the latter.

“Oh, we lost our innocence today,” they sing in unison, the Dropkick Murphys.

“4-15-13.”

It’s a date.

It’s a song.

It’s the scar tissue that lingers.

Some wounds don’t ever truly heal.

Nor are they meant to.

They’re just too deep.

This doesn’t mean the hurt has to last, though.

Just the memories.

“For those gone but not forgotten, we remember you each day,” Dropkick Murphys frontman Al Barr promises in tones that both stir and warm the blood on the tune in question.

“4-15-13” is the day of the terrorist attack on the Boston Marathon, where three people lost their lives and countless more were injured in the Murphys’ hometown.

The song may have been inspired by a specific event, but it bears a universal message of resilience and remembrance, reflection and resolve.

“I think it’s something that resonated with people whether they’ve been through a similar thing like that or not,” Dropkick Murphys guitarist Tim Brennan says.

Plenty of Las Vegans have.

So when the band plays “4-15-13” here Saturday, shortly after the two-year anniversary of the Oct. 1 mass shooting, it promises to be one of those moments when a song becomes more than a song.

“I remember the first time I heard it when it was done,” Brennan recalls of one of the standout numbers on the Dropkick Murphys’ standout ninth album, “11 Short Stories of Pain & Glory.” “I’m always hyper-aware of what the music sounds like when we’re working it. I’m always paying attention to the lyrics, but (singer-bassist) Ken (Casey) and Al are usually working on the lyrics, and I’ll hear little bits and pieces here and there. But when we were tracking the vocals for that and I heard the complete song, I was so pleased with the way everything came out.”

The road comes to an end

“4-15-13” may be the emotional centerpiece of “Stories,” but there’s a poignant, personal feel to much of the record. One of the issues the band addresses is opiate abuse, to which they’ve lost friends and family members. They confront the epidemic on rousing singalong “Paying My Way” and a cover of the Rodgers and Hammerstein show tune “You’ll Never Walk Alone,” songs about chasing your dreams, only to come up short of breath, then chasing on regardless.

That’s the prevailing theme of the album, which runs the gamut from tin-whistle-abetted odes to various ne’er-do-wells (“First Class Loser”) to furniture-breaking rippers about brawling at a wake over missing head gear (“I Had a Hat”).

The band has been on the road in support of “11 Short Stories” for more than two years, with just a few dates left before it’s finally done touring the record.

“I’ll always think of the actual execution of the making of this record and playing these songs in a very positive way,” Brennan says. “It’s funny to think of a time when no one had heard of these songs, before you get to a point where you’re playing them every night and you can tell that they’ve become part of the list of songs that people want to hear.”

New day, new album

Upon returning home next week, the band will begin work on its next album in earnest. Brennan notes that the group already has a couple of tunes done to the point that they could play them live as the songwriting process continues.

“Typically with us, the music comes first,” he says. “There are some times when a lyric or a melody idea will inspire a song, but generally we work on the musical part first. The first ones that sort of hook in and become part of the building blocks of what the record’s going to be, that’s just a matter of what connects with everybody as far as what’s interesting sounding.

“We try to keep ourselves very open to all sorts of things,” he adds. “We don’t want someone to bring in a song that’s a great song and then be like, ‘Yeah, but it’s not a Dropkick song.’ We can make it a Dropkick song.”

Brennan has been making those songs for 16 years, his path to becoming a member of the group a circuitous one. He was initially recruited to join the Murphys to sell merch during Warped Tour 2003, while he was still in college, playing accordion with them from time to time. A month after he’d returned to school, the band asked Brennan to join as accordion/mandolin/tin whistle/banjo player.

So he hit road instead of the books.

“I had always known that really what I wanted to do was play music full time,” says Brennan, who became the band’s lead guitarist in 2008. “It was certainly a change, but not a bad one: I traded in going to school for playing guitar for a living.”

He adds with a chuckle: “I think it worked out OK.”

Contact Jason Bracelin at jbracelin@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0476. Follow @JasonBracelin on Twitter.

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