Reunited Dispatch rock in triumphant homecoming

A review of Dispatch at the TD Garden on June 24, 2011

, Contributing Writer

The last time Dispatch played in Boston was 2004. At that time they were officially disbanded and the now legendary Hatch Shell concert drew a crowd of over 100,000. On Friday, they made their triumphant hometown return by rocking a sold out TD Garden for the first of three nights.

The homecoming gigs brought the band’s highly successful reunion tour to an epic close. With the exception of a one-off reunion at Madison Square Garden four years ago, Dispatch had remained dormant until this year when the returned with a brand new self-titled EP and tour plans.  Despite the long layoff, Dispatch’s popularity has only grown.  The Garden was packed to capacity and by the time Dispatch took the stage, the crowd exploded with joy. Fans were on their toes for the entire show, raucously singing-along through the 2 ½ hour set.

One of the best things about Dispatch is the versatility of the members. On their studio albums they share songwriting duties and live, this collaborative effort comes out with Chad Stokes Urmston, Brad Corrigan and Pete Francis Heimbold all taking turns as the lead singer and moving between instruments like musical chairs. Urmston started out on the guitar and lead duties, playing “Open Up”, before the drummer Corrigan came on the take lead duties on “Prince of Spades”. Bassist Heimbold took his turn next, leading the band in the sing-a-long classic “Hey, Hey”.

Dispatch has always skirted between Ska and rootsy Americana. This ability to recall the focus on social issues and grooving rhythms of Bob Marley and the harmonies and country tendencies of the Grateful Dead, sometimes within in the same song, is a large part of their appeal and why they resonate with such a large number of people. They brought out two sax players and the violinist and percussionist from show opener Elephant Revival to flesh out this sound.

All night the band was in top form and blazed through hits like “Bang Bang” and lesser known tracks like “Passerby,” and new song “Broken American,” with equal gusto. They kept their cheekiness and playfulness alive throughout as well, and at one point towards the end of the night, Urmston and Corrigan even played a game of Marco Polo, running through the crowd while simultaneously riffing on the Buffalo Springfield classic “For What it’s Worth.” The crowd was there for every moment, glad to be along for the ride. No one cared that they waited close to two hours and two encores to play “The General” as the last song of the evening. It was expected.

Throughout the night, the band kept paying homage to the Bruins. They talked about the thrill of seeing the Bruins win the cup (which started countless “Here we go Bruins!” chants) and Urmston noted how growing up in the area and being a huge Bruins fan, made playing in the Garden a huge honor for him. They even came back out in Bruins Jerseys for the encore, and all of this would have come across as a bit gimmicky if they didn’t have such a strong connection to the area. It’s a mutual love that forms an ongoing connection: the band asked the audience to bring books to donate to local teachers and the crowd responded in droves, books in hand ready to support a band they hadn’t seen in seven years.

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