Gary Moore - Biography
Some shows are so momentous, they pass into rock 'n' roll folklore. When Gary Moore stepped onto the stage of London's Islington Academy on December 2nd, 2009, it was a true one-off, showcasing one of blues-rock's biggest names in an intimate club setting. But when Moore unexpectedly passed away fourteen months later, aged just 58, the show took on added poignancy, cherished as one of his last stands, kept alive in the memories of those who attended.
Now, a decade later, the release of Live From London on Mascot/Provogue resurrects the much-missed Irishman, bringing his blazing talents back into the spotlight, catching the sparks of that night in the capital, and bottling a performance that stands amongst Moore's very best. "It was a full-on show and an amazing performance," remembers Jon Norman, who organised the event for the Planet Rock radio station. "He even overran the venue's curfew – it just felt like he never wanted to stop playing."
That same hunger ran through Moore's entire career, the prolific Irishman barely pausing for breath during four decades of music. Born in Belfast, the guitarist was just sixteen years old – but already a seasoned player with soul under his fingernails – when he was drafted by Dublin blues-rockers Skid Row, and forged a brotherhood with the band's street-poet frontman, Phil Lynott. "Phil was a tall, skinny, cool black guy," Moore recalled. "There weren't a lot of black guys in Dublin then, so Phil stood out like a sore thumb."
But Moore was never a one-band man, and he tore through the '70s like a train, whether igniting his own solo career with 1973's Grinding Stone, or making on/off appearances in Lynott's Thin Lizzy, with whom he recorded classic songs like Still In Love With You, Waiting For An Alibi and Do Anything You Want To. It was testament to the guitarist's versatile talent that during that same decade, he was able to join jazz-fusioneers Colosseum II – and even collaborate with West End composer Andrew Lloyd Webber.
Moore's own solo career was a two-headed beast. In early years, he earned a guitar-hero reputation from the heavy rock of albums like 1978's Back On The Streets and 1985's Run For Cover (respectively featuring the classic Parisienne Walkways and Out In The Fields, both co-written by Moore and Lynott). But in 1990, Moore returned to his first love with Still Got The Blues, a global hit whose A-list contributors included Albert King, Albert Collins and George Harrison. "One night, Bob Daisley, the bass player, came into the dressing room," Moore remembered of the album's genesis. "And he said, 'You know, Gary, you should make a blues album. It might be the biggest thing you ever did'. I laughed. He laughed, too. But I did, and he was right, and it was. Still Got The Blues sold three million copies around the world."
No wonder there was a crackle of anticipation at the Islington Academy in December 2009. "There was a real buzz," says Norman. "It was a full house, upstairs and down. Everybody had come to see Gary. I'd already seen him play live three times over the years. But that night in London was a special show. There are certain memorable things that you do over the years, and putting on that show is something I'm proud of."
Every corner of Moore's famous catalogue is mined on Live From London. The pace is set by the fiery groove of Albert King's Oh Pretty Woman, and the highlights keep coming, from the bounce of Bad For You Baby and Down The Line's high-velocity country-blues, to the swooping guitar hook of Otis Rush's All Your Love and the weeping leads of Donny Hathaway's I Love You More Than You'll Ever Know. "It was the way that he could make a guitar sound," considers Norman. "Other people have tried and failed to do the same. It was just quite mesmerising what he could do with that Les Paul."
The Live From London concert ups the ante, meanwhile, with a home straight of classics, which include the bittersweet melody of Still Got The Blues and the seismic stabs of Jimmy Rogers' Walking By Myself, the crowd roaring back the call-and-response vocal. Finally, for the kiss-off, Moore's mastery of mood lets him shift gears to the poignant Parisienne Walkways, the UK#8 hit still retaining its love-gone-bad magic, three decades later.
It was a never-to-be-repeated night, spoken of in a reverential whisper amongst blues-rock aficionados. But now, with Live From London, you can be there too, thanks to a live album so immersive that listeners can practically feel the crush of the crowd and the heat from the valve amps. As Norman says: "What more could you ask for from a live show...?"