Monday, June 14, 2010

No messin' with this kid: The best live gig I never went to

I can't believe it's 15 years today since we lost Rory Gallagher. What's more I can't believe it's almost as long since I  played one of his albums. They're all in a box in my sister's attic and have been since I moved to Ireland in 1998. I've never replaced them with CDs because there's something fundamentally wrong with listening to Gallagher in a digitally remastered form. When it comes to your blues gods, crackly vinyl's yer only man, says I.

I've some fond memories of Gallagher. A single track, 'Blister on the Moon' on a Polydor sampler called 'Supergroups' sometime in 1970.(For you young 'uns, samplers were the mash-ups of their day).

That was enough. And when I found out they were Irish it was hard to contain myself. You could keep your Creams and your Pink Floyds and your Led Zeppelins who were all pussies as far as I was concerned. These guys were blood. Like subbies on payday, they did it harder, faster, sweatier and louder. Sadly, on a paper-boy's wages by the time I could afford the albums they had already broken up.

I saw Rory live only once. It was on an Island Records triple bill at St George's Hall in Liverpool with the then unheard of Roxy Music and the best forgotten Nazareth as support. As I recall, there were lots of lads in check shirts, beards and bell-bottoms who didn't really take too well to Brian Eno's Venusian chic.

But the best Gallagher gig I ever went to was a late night screening of Tony Palmer's film of Gallagher's 1974 Irish Tour at the Essoldo Cinema on Conway St in Birkenhead.  Some forward looking soul had decided to sweat the asset by opening up the fleapit to an after-hours audience of  hippies, trogs, paddies and assorted post-pub and post-summer-of-love ne'er do wells.

Economically it was probably a good idea,  but you wouldn't have to be the Gypsy Petulengro to predict public order problems with the posse assembled that night. Imagine, if you can, an ABC minors matinee audience ramped up on speed, weed, acid, cheap cider, and whatever you're having yourself. For some of these lads just the sheer excitement at being out after the pubs had closed was an excuse to riot. It would take more than an usherette with a chrome-plated torch and a sharply enunciated shhhh to get them to sit down once the first chords of 'Walk on Hot Coals' filtered into the collective consciousness.

And that was all it took. They were off and running down the front forming a sweaty drunken mass of patchouli and pot fumes: "Rory, Rory,Rory". That was the chant. It didn't matter that the man himself was probably touring half a world away. He was there in spirit 20 feet high and 40 feet wide performing full-on for the faithful.

And when it was all over, it still didn't end. Nobody noticed the end-credits and if they did, it didn't matter anyway.  The crowd had drink, they had drugs, they had the chips they'd smuggled in with them. In short,they weren't going anywhere and neither was anyone else until the man had played his usual 3 encores.

It took some time to settle down but the realisation that it was only a movie dawned on all but the most die-hard  Gallagher heads  before the bizzies were called. And, as is the way of gigs everywhere, the crowd faded into the night leaving only their detritus of chip-papers, beer cans and fag-ends as evidence of  its presence.

Anyway, here's a memento of that night.  

The photo at the top is  © 2008, Pilise Gábor.Thanks for the loan of it

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