Though the idea of traveling a great distance to see a concert used to strike me as a bit excessive, the prospect of witnessing Rory Gallagher's first American appearance in over 6 years was my personal exception.
Amidst a capacity sell-out crowd at Pepper's Golden Bear in Huntington Beach earlier this month, I realized the elation I felt as his name was announced over the PA was told me this indeed was the place to be.
Gallagher is the epitome of the working musician who has refused to bow to the pretentious pressures the rock circuit. A native of Ireland who gained international recognition as a skilled disciple of seminal blues artists like Robert Johnson, Muddy Waters, and Albert King, his furious and lengthy performances have earned him the reputation as, "the hardest gigging musician in the business."
Never mind the digital samplers, pyrotechnic lighting, or dance routines,
Gallagher makes music the old fashioned way--slung out with a vengeance
at full volume. Supporting his distinctively gritty sound was bassist
of 20 years Jerry McAvoy, drummer Brendan O'neill, and occasional appearing
blues harpist Mark Feltham. Casually working his antique Stratocaster
whose finish was worn down to the wood grain, he put it down briefly in
his nonstop two-hour performance to play several numbers unaccompanied
on acoustic six string. As if his playing wasn't impressive
enough, he awed the crowd even further by changing tunings onstage in a
matter of seconds.
Much of the evening's material was from his highly acclaimed "Rory Gallagher Live" and "Irish Tour '74" releases. Both examples of how a master musician can evoke a variety of sounds from an an instrument without depending on electronic devices. Though he has consistently released albums on a variety of labels, most of the other selections came from his most recent recordings including his current "Fresh Evidence" on the IRS/Capo label.
Roger's memories looking back from 2002
He opened the show with Continental OP. He wore the long leather coat you see on the Defender album. His encore was the Beatles' Revolution drifting into Jailhouse Rock. When he did Off the Handle, he pretended to engage in a fight with the harmonica, dueling back and forth. He started Tattoo'd Lady with a flamenco-like intro, it absolutely floored me...Brendan was wearing a headband and Gerry wore what appeared to be black leotards (not that I regularly check out guys or anything) His Messin' With the Kid was a lot like the Cork town hall performance you sent me on video. He would let the crowd finish the verses that ended with the song title. On the last number he tried to arc the guitar but missed catching it and it bounced around on him. He looked at Gerry and sort of smirked with a "oh well, what the hell" look. I get emotional just thinking about him!
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