The night I saw Rory Gallagher (pronounced "Gal - a - her"), I was wasted. He and his band opened for Rod Stewart and the Faces, notorious for being a loose, good-time, party band. So, everyone came prepared, not caring for the little known band of Irishmen who would play the first 45 minutes or so. It was simply more time to toke up and drink.
Rory took the stage in darkness. A single light blinked on to illuminate this rather ordinary looking guy in a flannel shirt and jeans, holding a red guitar. He began to play - fast. Not in a flashy manner, but, understated, as if he was trying to say something that could not be expressed in words. Alternating between slide and his fingers, he worked himself into a frenzy. Suddenly, the band kicked in and Rory and his guitar began to sing together: "If I was a cradle, then you'd let me rock ... if I was a pony, then you'd let me trot ... if I was an atom, you'd split me into three ..."
In an instant, I was straight, riveted to the stage. The blues were never the same for me after that night. Guitar fanatics are notoriously opinionated. There are those who will whisper with reverence: "Eric Clapton is God," "Hendrix, man, Hendrix," or, "Duane Allman was the King." For my money, Rory Gallagher played the blues the way they were meant to be played: with passion, drenched in soul, steeped in alcohol and poverty.
Irish Tour '74 is Rory Gallagher at his best, serving up a variety of guitar blues styles to a hometown audience. His band includes long-time bassist Gerry McAvoy and drummer Rod de'Ath with the addition of Lou Martin on electric keyboards and organ - giving the music an underlying jaunty feel. From the blues rock of the aforementioned "Cradle Rock" to the acoustic swamp blues of Tony Joe White's "As The Crow Flies" to the Chicago blues tribute to Muddy Waters via "I Wonder Who's Gonna Be Your Sweet Man," Rory plays it all. The highlight, however, is an eleven minute version of "Walk On Hot Coals," a blistering update of the traditional "meeting the devil at the crossroads" blues motif, Irish style.
Rory Gallagher died following a failed liver transplant in June of 1995. He never achieved the success he deserved, gigging night after night in obscurity. After he died, the people of Cork stood in the streets, mourning and cheering him as the funeral procession wound its way through his adopted hometown. It was a send-off worthy of royalty. Rory Gallagher deserves your attention now. You deserve to hear the message of an angel who may forever change your heart and soul.