Rory Gallagher: Irish Tour '74

Doug Collette By

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Rory Gallagher

Irish Tour '74

Eagle Video


However much acclaim he received during his lifetime, and to whatever extent his legacy has grown posthumously since his untimely death in 1995, guitarist Rory Gallagher will be best remembered for the feverish abandon of his live performances. Assembled with the same creative spark and attention to detail as the most recent archive releases, Irish Tour '74 reaffirms the Irish bluesman's direct connection to his fans, through the loyalty he demonstrated to his musical roots, without interruption, through his career.

The bonus features on the single disc function equally well as prelude or punctuation to the main content. Rory Gallagher: Music Makeris a half- hour documentary that, in its stylish interspersing of interview and concert footage (with some surprisingly dramatic cuts), presents a concise timeline of the man's career. Selected shots of the audience show genuine admiration for a performer in full command of his own personal style, rather than the mindless idolatry of celebrity, a role Gallagher eschewed with a vengeance as, in the late 1960s, he formed the power trio Taste, then went out as a solo artist.

Not surprisingly, given the guitarist's loyalty to the folk genre, two acoustic numbers, "Pistol Slapper Blues" and "Don't Know Where I'm Going," appear within the mini-set of a segment otherwise comprised of raw renditions of blues and equally primal rock and roll, such as "Toredown" and "Bullfrog Blues," recorded in Limerick, Ireland with Rod D'Ath on drums and Gerry McAvoy on bass (Lou Martin has his antique keyboards in tow for the main stage segments).

Plenty of picturesque footage of Gallagher's native country contrasts well with the home footage of a Japanese tour of 1974 which appears on "In Your Town," a comparatively short interlude given its soundtrack by a single stage number, which makes for a smooth segue into the full-length, Tony Palmer-directed documentary itself. In a twist that distinguishes Irish Tour '74 from previous releases such as Live in Cork (Eagle Video, 2010), the colorful interactive menu of the disc (which finds a corollary in the painted images inside the accompanying booklet) offers an option for audio commentary by Rory Gallagher's brother Donal and long- time bassist Gerry McAvoy: because that track mostly obscures the main one, it works best to flip it on for the interludes filmed backstage at theatres, and turn it off for the performances proper.

Reminiscences of the social turmoil in Ireland at the time only point up the fierce pride Rory Gallagher drew from his native soil, comparable to his devotion to his music and his audience. Invariably drenched in a sweat that soaks through his plaid, corduroy and denim outfits, this contemporary bluesman demonstrated an intensity unpolished in comparison to Stevie Ray Vaughan, but every bit as authentic, on original compositions such as "Walk on Hot Coals" and "Tatoo'd Lady."

Originally shown in theatres, the 90-minute feature has been digitally remastered for this release, and that technical care shows in the sparkling colors of the visuals and fine audio separation and balance (it is not clear from the liner credits if the same is true of the companion CD). Though the live footage is stylishly shot and edited, some might quibble with sequencing that doesn't allow the music to generate true linear momentum (though the in-house audience response is increasingly frenetic).

But this film isn't meant to replicate the live experience so much as place it in context of Gallagher's ancestry, his chosen profession and his stubbornly down to earth approach to his craft. As such it becomes a surprisingly evocative period piece, with the sorely-missed Gallagher as its compelling centerpiece.

Production Notes: 123 minutes. Directed by Tony Palmer. Extras: "Rory Gallagher: Music Maker" directed by Bill Keating, "In Your Town," Japanese 1974 tour footage.
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