An Irish Lad and a Brit walk into the Coliseum…One evening in 1974 the names on the cow barn marquee read: ROD STEWART & FACES. Opening the show: RORY GALLAGHER.
Rory who? A big question mark came across my face and I do believe the same for the majority of the Coliseum crowd that were there only to see Rodney, the scoundrel of stage and song; the Brit bopper with a howling sandpaper voice.
Rory Gallagher was born in Ballyshannon, a town that claims to be the oldest in all of Ireland. It lies in the northwest alongside the River Erne that leads into the Atlantic. Rory picked up guitar while in the third grade and much later at the age of 24, went on to create and lead a blues-rock power trio with a sound that became uniquely his, while also adding recording and touring to his resume.
He owned a 1961 Fender Strat, his ax of choice to perform with. And since he was seven years older than our own Stevie Ray, it was fair to say that Rory soon became the master of the stratocaster. He and his mates were impressive enough to open for Cream’s farewell performance at the Royal Albert Hall in London in November 1968.
At the start of the El Paso show, the first high-octane track of the set left me with my mouth open. “Who is this guy?”, I wondered. His LP, “Tattoo”, was released in November of ’73 and from that collection he also blasted the audience with amazing guitar pyrotechnics in “Cradle Rock”, but then showed his versatility and prowess by changing the set’s vibe entirely with the seven minute anthem “A Million Miles Away” – complete with cool, clean harmonics for aficionados.
The next day I bought two of his LP’s, “Live in Europe” and “Tattoo”, and I became a fan for life.
Guitarist Brian May of Queen put it this way: “Rory interacted with his audience….he was a magician and an entertainer. And his playing was incredible, he was one of the very few at that time who could make his guitar do anything; it seemed to be magic. I remember looking at his battered stratocaster thinking how does that come out of there? How does he do that?”
The annual Rory Gallagher Music Festival was held in Ballyshannon earlier this month on June 2,3,4.
Unfortunately for many of us that sat very close to the stage, a noticeably drunk and disinterested Rod Stewart rambled through a short set that night. I soon lost interest in his stage presence and focused on watching Ron Wood’s guitar work.
I believe the band started with “Miss Judy’s Farm”, but if there was a highlight of the evening for me, it was definitely “Stay With Me”.
Rodney made it clear that no encore was in order by announcing to the audience, “This is the last song”, which turned out to be “Twistin the night away”. It wasn’t an electrifying concert, but more of a lackluster dress rehearsal by Rod and the Faces.
José Oswaldo Rico, Guest Contributor