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Reviewed by Lee Zimmerman
ory Gallagher’s status as one of the greatest blues-rock guitarists who ever lived remains indisputable, despite the fact he rarely gets mentioned in the company of the acknowledged guitar gods Clapton, Beck or Page. Gallagher downplayed the whole rock star image, as evidenced from his humble demeanor to his onstage uniform, which leaned more towards denim and plaid flannel that the velvet and sparkle that adorned the other ‘70s musical elite. Nevertheless, when he formed the power trio Taste in his native Ireland during the late ‘60s, it was as formidable a powerhouse as any member of the competition could muster.
Gallagher went solo in the early ‘70s and spun out a series of albums that reveled in his ongoing allegiance to the blues, sans any compromises that might have courted favor with the glitter and glam crowd. So formidable were his talents that at one time he was recruited by the Rolling Stones as Mick Taylor’s replacement. Yet true to form, he bowed out in order to pursue his own muse. Sadly, when he died from a failed liver transplant in 1994, he had yet to achieve the widespread recognition so clearly his due.
A recent Rory revival might help remedy that, inspired by this beautifully documented performance in his native Cork in the mid ‘80s, as well as a two-disc compilation, Crest of a Wave, titled after one of his standout songs. While both deserve acquisition, the DVD holds sway, not only for its crisp camera work and the added perk of an accompanying virtual tour of Gallagher’s hometown environs, but mostly because it allows an unblinking close-up view of the power and verbosity that was Gallagher’s stock in trade. His searing solos and blustery vocals turn each performance into a literal tour-de-force. It’s only after seeing him tear through such sizzling assaults as “Tattoo’d lady,” “Follow Me,” “Out on the Western Plain” and his signature song, “Messin’ with the Kid,” that one gets a full grasp on the sureness and authority Gallagher could claim at his command.
It’s often said that the blues were born from humble origins, and while Rory Gallagher stayed true to their essence through his own humility, he also had a knack for turning simple standards into anthems sown through uncontained fury. That’s consistently on full display on Live in Cork, making it a fitting testament to the powers and prowess of an exceptional player and performer.