Category: Archive

The big gun

February 17, 2011

By Staff Reporter

Rory Gallagher’s passing ten years ago precludes such a remindful and nostalgic gathering. That’s good news for the Garden’s roof.
It could take Clapton and just about anybody else.
Gallagher would have peeled the thing off the walls.
Gallagher’s guitar has been silent for a decade, but others have taken on the task of plucking, strumming and jamming on the great man’s behalf.
The result is a tribute featuring an ensemble of New York-based singers and musicians who sing and tell of their hero on a new DVD entitled “Songs & Stories.”
Rory Gallagher was an early-days Irish guitar hero who took his legions of Irish fans on a pulsating ride through the Mississippi Delta, Memphis and Chicago without ever having to step off the island.
Over time, and along with his band Taste, Gallagher took his rollicking blues stage show to Europe and beyond.
No record collection in Ireland was complete during the 1970s without Gallagher’s “Live In Europe” LP.
The passing of vinyl was merely incidental to the passing on of Gallagher’s musical legacy from one generation to the next.
The man truly was, and is, a rocker for all ages.
He was born in Ballyshannon, Co. Donegal in 1948, but grew up in Cork City. He died in London in June of 1995. He was buried in Cork. And his legend lives everywhere the blues is played.
But of the DVD itself — a Rory Gallagher fan will be familiar with some of the footage and will doubtless pine for more.
But the relative newcomer to Gallagher’s three decades of recording and performing needs a little perspective and scene setting. This is provided in what is an hour-long documentary by an eclectic bunch of singers and musicians led by Seamus Kelleher, a well-known guitarist in his own right who plays in the group Blackthorn.
The tribute portion of “Songs & Stories” was filmed at the Bottom Line in Greenwich Village shortly before the storied venue itself passed into musical history.
The evening’s combination of talk and musical odes to Gallagher was recorded by filmmakers Victor Zimet and Stephanie Silber of Home Team Productions in collaboration with Kelleher, who lays strong claim to the title of world’s number-one Rory Gallagher freak.
Others in the film who take the stage to pay homage to Gallagher include Larry Kirwan of Black 47, Pierce Turner and Sean Fleming.
There is, of course, footage aplenty of Gallagher himself, some of it from concerts, some taken at home, or simply out walking in the Irish air.
Donal Gallagher, Rory’s brother and manager, adds insight into the guitarist’s private life and troubled soul.
Along the way there are facts for the record book. Gallagher sold 20 million albums in a 30-year career, played in almost every U.S. state, was a favorite of Bob Dylan and John Lennon, and wrote great songs in addition to being an ace blues guitarist.
Then there is the intriguing scrap about Gallagher being in line at one point to join the Rolling Stones.
Just as well he didn’t. Gallagher was not a support player, even to the likes of Mick Jagger.
Indeed, a Gallagher performance in the man’s heyday would have more than matched the combined energy output on stage of Jagger and his merry minstrels.
Gallagher gigs had an intensity that Bruce Springsteen fans would immediately recognize. There were times when he had to be virtually dragged off the stage after multiple encores.
“Rory was fiercely independent. He rejected the trappings of a rock star,” is filmmaker Zemet’s take on Gallagher.
The viewer gets a clear sense of that in Zemet’s film.
Rory Gallagher was many things, but he was no prissy fashion-conscious icon.
Donal Gallagher described “Songs & Stories” as being “just a wonderful bouquet to my brother.”
And that it is, though a bittersweet one.
Gallagher fans will lap this film up while the merely curious will find reason to seek out the musical legacy of an Irishman who made a uniquely American music form his very own — and then some.

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