I had been a devout fan of Rory Gallagher since early 1973 due to my
appreciation at the time for the band Deep Purple, and I first saw Rory
when he opened for them (and naturally stole the show). Eighteen
years and 15 concerts later, I anxiously anticipated the arrival of my
hero during his 1991 Fresh Evidence tour. Rory had not been to the
States in over five years, and he had not been to San Diego for even longer
than that. I had first seen Rory in San Diego while in college in
the early seventies, and had faithfully attended every one of his shows
that he held in that area ever since. Back in those days, prior to
the advent of the internet, it wasn't so easy to determine the touring schedules
and know for certain when bands were going to be coming to town to play.
When I discovered that Rory would be coming to southern California in early
’91, I made a vow to myself that I would see him as many times as possible.
For a true Rory Gallagher fanatic like myself, six years without seeing
the man was like a practicing alcoholic going without booze for a month.
I had never gone more than a couple of years not seeing my man in person
until the stretch of time between 1985 and 1991. I needed my Rory
Gallagher fix and I needed it in a big way! Rory had been touring
in Australia prior to his arrival in San Diego, and indeed the San Diego
show would be his first in America since 1985 or ‘86. I felt privileged
to get to see Rory the very first night of his triumphant return to the
USA. The San Diego show was to be held in a local dive called the
“Bacchanal,” a place I had never seen or been to before. As it turns
out, it was a dumpy little joint in the corner of a strip mall in suburban
San Diego. When I arrived I remember thinking to myself, “Rory's type
of place!” After parking the car and walking up to the venue, I figured
that arriving two hours early would guarantee me the best seat in the house.
To my horror, as my friend and I walked up to the club, there was a queue
of people about 40 meters in length! I couldn't believe it!
But I shouldn't have been surprised…….Rory was back!
I remember that evening, March 6, 1991, standing in line waiting to enter
the show. Those of us in there waiting were treated to a special
gift from Rory….. his sound check. They had the front door of the
house opened up and Rory played “The Loop” and an instrumental version of
“Don't Start Me Talkin;” to get warmed up. It was pure pleasure for
me. Rory was back in my town!
I entered the venue and my buddy and I scrambled to get the best seats
we could, which happened to be in the second row from the stage.
Most of the time when I attended Rory's shows, the people in front would
be standing and crowding the stage. The configuration of this venue
was such that there were rows of seats packed into the place which meant
standing and fighting one'sway to the front of the stage was out of
the question. So we settled into our seats. The show was vintage
Rory, although he looked older, heavier, and more ragged than in the past.
The man could still play. The night was pure heaven for me, and to
this day I have a constant reminder of that evening due to the tininitus
in my ears. I hear the ringing as I write this, and I owe it all to
my hero, Rory Gallagher! Man was that show loud!
The next day, March 7, was my birthday, and I would have liked nothing
better than to see Rory for my birthday present. Alas, when you have
small children like I did at the time, your birthday is more important
to them than it is to you. So I had to skip Rory's appearance in Huntington
Beach that night. But I'm sure it was a great show! Instead,
I decided to go see Rory in a place where traditionally he had always kicked
it up a notch, and that was at the Roxy in Hollywood on Saturday, March
9. There are some memorable events from that March 9th performance.
First of all, I made sure not to make the same mistake that I had made
in San Diego. I arrived at the venue a good three or four hours
before show time, and my friend and I ended up at the front of the queue
in front of the Roxy on Sunset Boulevard. I was really looking forward
to this gig because, as I mentioned, Rory always seemed to turn things up
just a little bit when he played in Hollywood. And I had seen him
several times over the years on Sunset Boulevard to know this.
This was the night when I met one of the biggest Rory fans I have ever
known, Patrick Kennedy, who stood in line with me for several hours before
the doors opened. He and I stayed in touch after that, and
up until all the web sites, newsgroups, and email lists devoted to Rory
came into existence, Patrick was my biggest source of news about Rory.
In fact, it was Patrick who phoned me the day after Rory died to give me
the sad news. Anyway, the other notable event that occurred that evening
was the not-so-welcome appearance of the guitarist Slash, who somehow ended
up on stage with Rory and interrupted his first encore.
Contrary to anything you will hear or read about that night, Slash's
appearance was brief and not welcomed by the crowd. Rory fans had no
patience for an idiot who stumbled out on stage with a cigarette hanging from
his mouth, interrupting the performance of an artist who he had no hope of
ever coming close to emulating.
I had the good fortune to be in northern California on business part
of the following week. I knew that Rory would be playing later that
weekend in Santa Cruz, Palo Alto, and other cities in the bay area.
Unfortunately, I also knew that I wouldn't be in the area long enough to
attend those gigs. So I bought a newspaper and started looking to
see if Rory happened to be playing anywhere else while I was there.
Much to my surprise and good luck, I found out that a gig in Las Vegas
for Thursday, March 14 had been canceled, and instead Rory was booked into
a place called the Omni in Oakland, California. That was a short
drive from my hotel, so I found a ticket broker, purchased a ticket, and
drove myself over to Oakland, again making sure to arrive a good three
hours early. Little did I know that the Omni was in one of the worst
sections of Oakland, so I thought there had to be some mistake! One
could scarcely tell that it was even a concert venue, and in fact looked
more like a rundown factory building. There was nobody even in the
place! I knocked on the door and there was no answer, and there also
were no other people anywhere around. I just sat in my rental car
and waited, thinking I had made a terrible mistake. I started watching
the people come and go in the immediate area, and soon determined that
there was a crack house right across the street from the Omni! Rory
had played some dives before, but this place took the cake!
From the vantage point of my rental car (which I had parked right in
front of the club), I noticed a vehicle slowly driving down the street.
As the car neared where I was sitting, I thought I saw the faces of Gerry
McAvoy and others from the band and road crew peering out the window at
the Omni with looks on their faces as if to say, “WHAT THE F***?”
I could tell they had no idea what they were getting themselves into.
But I also knew then that I was at the right place! The only problem
was……where were the fans?
A few people finally started to show up, so I left my car and went to
stand in line with the others. As I was standing there, who do I see?
None other than my new friend Patrick who I had met the weekend before
in L.A. It was a great reunion! Once we got inside, Patrick
took me over to speak with Donal, whom he already knew, and although the
encounter was ever so brief, I was very jazzed to have had the chance to
The Omni was an interesting place. There were no chairs.
No seats. Just a big floor and a stage. Off in another room
there was a bar. This was a bare bones club. As show time approached,
I noticed that there were hardly any fans in the place and word had obviously
not gotten out. I quickly counted the crowd. 42 people.
That'sright, FORTY-TWO people! Rory deserved to be playing in front
of 42,000 people, not this sparse house. I was embarrassed for my hero.
As it turns out, there was no reason to be embarrassed. Rory came
out and tore the place apart as if it was the biggest and best venue he had
ever been in. As we all know, Rory was the consummate professional,
and by the end of the show I was kicking myself for ever thinking that Rory
would have any problem with the fact that there were so few people in front
of him, or that the place was a dump, or even that there was a drug-dealing
crack house across the street! Rory kicked ass that night just like
every other time I had ever seen him. Before that night Rory was
my hero. Afterwards, he was a GOD!
After the show was over, the place quickly emptied the few fans that
were there. I had never met Rory but I thought to myself that this
would be the best chance I would ever have to do just that. So I
hung around the backstage area for about 20 minutes, and finally got the
chance to run back there and meet Rory. I was so star-struck from
the opportunity that I actually can't remember the meeting too well.
I had my Fresh Evidence CD with me, and I remember asking him to autograph
it. As Rory was putting down his signature, I stammered my way through
a testimonial to the man I had revered for the better part of two decades.
I could tell that he was embarrassed by my tribute, so I shut up.
We spoke briefly for about another 30 seconds, and that was that. I
left the place on cloud nine!
I never saw Rory Gallagher perform again. He didn't return the
U.S. after that and died four years later. I will never forget him
and that last tour.