Rory's Return

CORK, SOUTHERN IRELAND, Friday night:  Rory Gallagher won't be playing his Irish hometown again, not for a long while anyway.  It's a little after 10 p.m. in the town's Savoy Cinema, and about 40 youths have just legged and swung their way across the dry moat of the organ pit.

It's about a 15 ft drop into the pit, and it's about 20 ft wide, and these guys hang onto to the edge of the stage with their fingernails – suddenly the front of the stage just collapses.

Bodies and wood hit the base of the pit.  Gallagher, Wilgar Campbell and Gerry McAvoy rock on as the safety curtain slams down.

But there are people everywhere, people in uncontrollable fits of frenzy and hysteria, who sort of appear in ghostly flashes, and cart away parts of the drum kit, then sling bottles at the dressing room windows.  Remember Beatlemania?  Thought audiences like that didn't exist?  Well boy oh boy, they do.

The cinema seats lie topsy turvy fashion, drunk and wounded, with a fair amount of rips and slashes spewing forth their stuffing.

The next morning the headline in the Cork daily is “Audience Over-Reacts to Musician” – well maybe that's not as hip as you'd like, but that's what it was.  So how did it all happen?

The Gallagher Legend is as firmly engraved in the hearts of the young Irish, as Guinness is in the guts of the elders – the concert was a sell-out, so something just had to happen.

After only one number, there was a standing – and pretty loose standing – ovation.  The cinema was manned only by sweet little usherettes, and a few elderly ushers, armed with torches and the experience that comes with lighting up back-seat snoggers, and organizing guys with long raincoats who populate the front.  The organization certainly looked a little frail for a rock concert.

As the band played on, it was openly obvious that the slightest excuse would send them totally mad with emotion.  They were restless in their seats.  Several rushed the front, and were somehow sent back.

Then as Gallagher spun into “Sinner Boy,” the whole thing erupted.  For the usher in the center aisle – a quick trip to the floor, and Hell just broke loose.

Gallagher, obviously worried by what's happening, speaks into the mike, tells them to calm it or he won't be allowed back – or for that matter, will anybody.  He tries a more gentle number, it succeeds for a while, but as more heavy rock follows, the whole thing gets awfully out of hand, then totally out of hand.  The stage is mounted, the curtains are up and down, and all over the place, there's people front stage, backstage, looming around, and it's just general chaos.

In the questionable safety of his dressing room Gallagher sighs, “I just wish things like that wouldn't happen.  It's great having such an audience, but when they go that far, well they spoil it for everyone.”

The promoter assures all that it looks like a total ban on Gallagher, and on rock concerts.  So much for rock mania.

As you've possibly read in the news pages, Gallagher's Cork concert proved to be more a riot than anything else, and you couldn't really draw together much musical criticism.  Okay it was wild enough to incense, but there were miking problems, and with the termination of the set due to trouble, it just wouldn't be fair.

The next night, however, in the busy little outpost of Limerick, proved to be brilliant for both artists and audience.  It was just as heavy, just as hysterical, but the seated masses kept their cools, as far as any notion to storm the stage went.

It got off to an odd start really.  Backstage there wasn't a sound, not even a whisper from out front.  This was due to the exceedingly thick safety curtain, which when pulled up exposed a massive roar, almost as though it were switched on.  Gallagher didn't hesitate, swung up to the mike, smacked his guitar into action, and the whole thing just took off.

And what a take off – you've got to hand it to this man, he's a rock ‘n’ roll star, he's got everything, every movement, and every feel.  We get a steady riff, which is worked well, given power and pungency by the energetic drummer Campbell and the bumping bass of McAvoy, then it stutters and lashes off into a maze of directions.

Gallagher has a direct approach to playing there's no tittle-tattle, it's absurdly simple at times – a work-up by Gallagher, a quick rapping of the snare, the joining of bass and the total excitement of fusion, and shouting vocals.  The audience pick it up, and bop in their seats.

It's great to watch Gallagher.  Playing in a hunched-up fashion, he suddenly twists round like a madman, walks quickly to Campbell, and curls out long, crashing chords.  Then he'll mute the strings, whip over to McAvoy, and together they create the fastly moving hum of boogie, and once into a beautiful gagging rock they turn it round, and sling it out.

“Sinner Boy” one of my favourite new Gallagher sets, blends a shuffle feel on an old traditional blues line, turns it heavy and chanting, and that blows the heads off the audience.

A quick hello, then he rips off his old Fenderstalks backstage, and adopts mandolin for blues, sliding open chords into a downfred bluesrun, stamping feet and slinging back hair – then barking.  It's amazing how he can hold an audience with just mandolin and vocals, well then again may be it's not so amazing, because he's good.

Campbell wears his drums high.  He's not a flashy player, there are no silly tricks just gentle hints every now and then on what he wants to follow, what he wants to introduce – and he does it in his own way.  McAvoy is a clean bassist, again no pretentious playing, but what he does is wonderfully effective.

Acoustic guitar from Gallagher, and then onto his “Strat,” following out notes, using them and screeching them sideways along and as far as they'll go and then a full, blossoming chord.

Those who faulted him on his lack of imagination during the days of Taste, must get another look, for now there's fever and unmistakable style free of clichés – there's variety and there's seemingly no end to it.

So those of Limerick threw their hats, and cheered and acted well.  And Rory Gallagher is, a rock ‘n’ roll star – and there are few around. – ROY HOLLINGWORTH.

This article comes from Melody Maker – June 26, 1971
Thanks to Brenda O'Brien for passing it along
The photo comes from the article
reformatted by roryfan

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