Eagle Rock Entertainment // 1981 // 112 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Victor Valdivia (Retired) // December 2nd, 2009
Captures Thin Lizzy at their very best.
Sadly, that's not exactly the case. Thin Lizzy remains one of the best and most underappreciated hard-rock bands of the '70s, but, sorry to say, this performance does not capture them at the peak of their formidable powers. There are still plenty of great moments that make this a good DVD for fans, but for newcomers it's not quite the best introduction to Thin Lizzy's talents.
Are You Ready? was filmed in 1981 in Lorelei, Germany and aired on German TV as part of the Rockpalast series. Here is the setlist:
* "Are You Ready?"
* "Waiting for an Alibi"
* "Trouble Boys"
* "Don't Believe a Word"
* "Memory Pain"
* "Got to Give it Up"
* "Cowboy Song"
* "The Boys are Back in Town"
* "Black Rose"
* "Sugar Blues"
* "Baby Drives Me Crazy"
* "Angel of Death" (listed incorrectly as "Desaster")
Much of the problem is that the early '80s were not a golden time for Thin Lizzy. In the '70s, singer/songwriter/bassist Phil Lynott led the band into a string of classic albums like Fighting (1975), Johnny the Fox (1976), Bad Reputation (1977), and of course Jailbreak, the 1976 album that made them stars in America. By 1981, however, Lynott and his key collaborator, guitarist Scott Gorham, were ensnared in debilitating drug addictions, resulting in subpar albums like Chinatown (1980) and Renegade (1981). Far too much of this concert is taken up by mediocre filler from those albums, like "Angel of Death," "Hollywood," and "Genocide," instead of classic Thin Lizzy staples like "The Rocker" and "Whiskey in the Jar."
The poorly chosen setlist isn't the only weakness. It's also painful to see the toll that hard living has taken on Lynott and Gorham throughout the concert. Both are uneven, with Gorham occasionally flubbing leads and Lynott sometimes waning in energy considerably. This gives the show a patchy quality that makes it go from thrilling to sloppy, sometimes within the same song. The other band members are not enough to completely save the show. The addition of keyboardist Darren Wharton is a mistake; he doesn't play that much and when he does, he simply adds clutter instead of depth. Guitarist Snowy White, who had previously played with Pink Floyd, is also a disappointment. He's a dexterous soloist but his playing lacks the punch necessary for Thin Lizzy's brand of hard rock. Maybe if Lynott had been in top form he could have whipped these musicians into a solid band, but he isn't and the music suffers considerably.
Nonetheless, despite those flaws, it would be a mistake to completely dismiss this DVD. Even though the performance isn't consistent, when it does click it proves just why Thin Lizzy were one of the most revered and influential bands of their era. The versions of "Jailbreak" and "Suicide" are superb, because they're the moments when the band really works together as a unit with all cylinders firing. "Waiting for an Alibi" is the first song where the band really hits its stride, with some of Lynott's best bass playing and some great solos by Gorham and White. Thin Lizzy's twin guitar sound served as the inspiration for future hard rock and metal bands like Iron Maiden, and while Gorham and White don't always make as good a team as they could, when they do, they're stellar. One of their high points is "Black Rose," when Gorham and White deliver some spectacular guitar harmonies that turn the song into a gorgeous epic. It's the version of "Got to Give It Up," however, that will really stun fans. Seeing Lynott sing about a man's losing battle with alcohol only years before his own tragic death from substance abuse in 1986 is one of the most shattering moments ever captured. It's moments like these that make Are You Ready? a must for fans. Unfortunately, the performance isn't as relentless as Thin Lizzy was previously capable of in the past, so only fans will be able to overlook the mistakes to get to the good parts.
Technically, the disc is frustrating. The 4:3 transfer doesn't look so great. Even by early-'80s video standards, it's awfully grainy and fuzzy, and almost every close-up of Lynott is marred by thick black bands that happen when the video is overwhelmed by noise. The 5.1 mixes (both Dolby and DTS) are also a letdown. They're not really very loud and the guitars sound rather thin. Eagle Rock is usually very reliable with their 5.1 mixes, even with older material, so it's possible there may have been some defects in the original recording. The show isn't unwatchable, but it isn't up to Eagle Rock's usually high standards, either. There are no extras.
Ultimately, though there are still several flashes of brilliance that make this a must-have for Thin Lizzy fans, it's just not the place for newcomers to discover the band. For that, start with either the Live and Dangerous collection or the Greatest Hits DVD, both of which contain the band's best songs in definitive performances. Phil Lynott is simply too valuable and underrated a talent to ever be truly dismissed, and any performance of his is worth seeing, but Are You Ready? is not one of his better concerts. Once you've seen how great Thin Lizzy at their peak could be, however, you'll be more able to appreciate the great moments seen here.
Not guilty, but more for fans than novices.
Review content copyright © 2009 Victor Valdivia; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2015 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Eagle Rock Entertainment
* Full Frame
* DTS 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 112 Minutes
Release Year: 1981
MPAA Rating: Not Rated