Judge Bill Gibron acknowledges that attack is what we lack.
Tonight there's gonna be a breakout/ Into the city zones/ Don't you dare to try and stop us/ No one could for long
Tributes rarely work. While the intentions are always good, the execution of same can be marred by ego, inexperience, and a general failure to complement the subject being celebrated. So when a game Gary Moore, one of several seminal guitarists who worked with the late, great bassist Phil Lynott in the band Thin Lizzy, steps up to offer a one-off concert in commemoration of his fallen mate, there is potential trouble in the attempt. The subject is a literal god in Ireland, a scrappy street kid who grew up to become one of rock's most amazingly lyrical frontmen. And the date chosen coincided with the unveiling of a long demanded statue in Lynott's honor. Bringing in other noted sideman from the "Boys are Back in Town" band, including original drummer Brian Downey and axemen Brian Robertson, Scott Gorham, and Eric Bell, the combination jam and greatest hits collection could have been a disaster. Instead it brings the SRO audience to their feet in unbridled aural delight. And once you have a chance to see and hear it, especially on Blu-ray, you'll completely understand why.
Moore makes up for a limited Lizzy catalog (there is no way they could conceivable mark all the memorable musical moments in the group's varied career) and the still somber facts of Lynott's death (he passed from heart failure and pneumonia in 1986, at 36) by putting on the most personal of public performances. The song list includes tracks from his own solo work as well as all phases of Lizzy's life. They include:
• "Walking By Myself"—from the 1990 Gary Moore
solo album Still Got the Blues
At a little less than 100 minutes, A Tribute to Phil Lynott might seem slight. But once you hear Moore and his compatriots tear through the various numbers here, length becomes a non-issue. This is a sensational concert, the mix of material perfectly balanced between extended slow burn guitar workouts and seismic metal stomp. As each ex-member of Lizzy's former Fender brigade takes the stage, backed amiably by Downey and Jethro Tull bassist Jonathon Noyce, the connection between the material and the crowd becomes evident. Lynott really spoke to his Irish kinsman, the mix of modern musical signatures and more classical folksong sentiments bringing a unique and very effective sonic force to tunes. This is especially true of "Emerald" and "Black Rose." The sheer power in these offerings overshadows the basic blues stomp of "Walking by Myself" or even the wonderful "Whisky in the Jar."
Regarding the special guests, Gorham gets the most face time, appearing with Moore for almost half of the material. He's got the old school Lizzy looks down pat. Robertson seems a little burnt out, wearing those always hard rock years on his slightly haggard face. Still, the man can rock, and does so mightily. Bell arrives for "Whisky," and that's it. He seems pleased to be part of the celebration. By the end, Moore is covered in sweat, and with good reason. He carries this entire production on his aging, pudgy shoulders, delivering Lynott's signature melodies with the kind of gusto reserved for opera stars. He's simply amazing here, ripping into "Jailbreak" and "Cowboy Song" with giddy abandon. His guitar playing is nothing to sneeze at, either. Always recognized for his sensational solos, Moore uses the breaks in "Black Rose" to fill out traditional tunes like "Danny Boy" with amazing dexterity. Without him, this would be a decent dedication to a fallen legend. With Moore at the helm, this becomes an amazing live experience all its own.
As they usually do with their Blu-ray releases, Eagle Rock Entertainment does a magnificent job with the high definition tech specs—the most important one being aural reproduction. The DTS HD Master Audio is amazing, full bodied and totally immersive. The crowd is buried deep in the mix, so the live concert experience is somewhat underwhelming, but the overall attention to sonic detail, including the separation between guitars, is just great. There are also LPCM Stereo and Dolby Digital 5.1 mixes, but if you can, stick with the DTS. It is definitive. Visually, the concert suffers from directorial ADD. The 1080i widescreen image (1.78:1) is gorgeous, with an abundance of detail and a stunning sense of immediacy. The man behind the switches, however, can't keep from jump cutting between the players at increasingly irritating rates. Just as Moore is about to lay into a long lead line, the editing moves to Downey keeping a standard downbeat. Huh? We want to see the performances, not indirectly experience them through sloppy switches. Luckily, the sole bonus feature saves this situation. In a collection of interviews, Lynott is remembered by his mates, and it's very moving indeed.
To a teenager growing up in the '70s, Thin Lizzy was the oddball entry in every record collection. While FM radio ritualistically played "The Boys are Back in Town" and "Jailbreak" until they were rote, they represented only a minor part of Phil Lynott's rock and roll legacy. It's fitting that his hometown now houses a statue in his honor. For anyone unable to visit the place of his birth, this Gary Moore tribute is the next best thing. It provides all the aural context you need and delivers a damn fine concert in the process. Finally, an all-star celebration to a fallen figure that actually works—and works well.
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