Classic Rock Corner

Eyeballin': Rory Gallagher Live in Cork

By the time of his 1995 death at the age of 47 due to complications from liver transplant surgery, Rory Gallagher was already a giant blues-rock guitar hero - albeit in pretty much every country besides the U.S. And it's a shame that these shores never cottoned to the Irishman, who in his prime certainly could have gone toe-to-toe with Clapton, Allman, and Winter.

Live in Cork shows a clearly enthused--and still potent--latter-day Gallagher playing for an appreciative hometown in 1987, a smile breaking across the baby face for much of the show. It's easy to see why fans often feel that his prolific studio recordings (especially in the '70s) never quite matched his live output (many point to his live CD/movie Irish Tour '74 as the essential listening experience).

For this show, Gallagher's deep, expressive voice and frenetic-but-controlled playing make trademark numbers "Continental Op," "Tattoo'd Lady" and a hi-energy cover of Junior Wells' signature "Messin' with the Kid" highlights. There's also much to love in his amped-up rock originals like the fiery "Follow Me" and "Shadow Play."

Two acoustic numbers with a solo Gallagher shows his skills aren't limited to high volume playing - a cover of Leadbelly's "Out on the Western Plain" needs only a tumbleweed to roll across the stage to put the audience squarely in a John Ford movie. However - as with even the best blues rockers - there are a few overextended romps that overstay their welcome ("Ain't No Saint," "Off the Handle").

Not surprisingly, much of the camera work focuses on Gallagher's fingers as they run up and down the body of his long-serving '61 Stratocaster, whose battered, paint-scraped body Gallagher gleefully modified into a Frankenstein of an instrument over the decades. Backed by longtime bassist Gerry McAvoy, drummer Brendan O'Neill, and harp player Mark Feltham, the quartet are a tight unit in the pocket with the tunes and each other.

Rory Gallagher Live in Cork was originally released on VHS as Messin' with the Kid--Live at the Cork Opera House. This DVD cleans up sound from the original, and includes as a bonus feature an interactive photo journey through Cork featuring places that figured into Gallagher's life, along with photos and memorabilia.

This is the third Gallagher DVD release from Eagle Rock (the previous two being live collections of performances at the Montreux Jazz Festivals and German TV show "Rockpalast"). And Rory's brother Donal is hoping these - along with new compilations and a proposed collection of live tracks - will help burnish the guitarist's reputation in the U.S. And with the luck of the Irish, perhaps that will happen.

$14.98, 78 minutes, Eagle Rock Entertainment

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Bob Ruggiero has been writing about music, books, visual arts and entertainment for the Houston Press since 1997, with an emphasis on classic rock. He used to have an incredible and luxurious mullet in college as well. He is the author of the band biography Slippin’ Out of Darkness: The Story of WAR.
Contact: Bob Ruggiero