Posted in: Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on April 12th, 2011
Rory Gallagher was somewhat of an enigma in the British music scene. While he never did have the breakout hit or career that he worked so hard to achieve, he has managed to develop quite a cult following over his troubled career. His roots went deep into the British blues scene where he first received some notice in the band Taste. But Rory was a force of nature and couldn’t be contained in the local scene. He grew up in the small town of Cork in Ireland and managed to fight his way onto a world stage by the time he reached his 20′s. His music was a unique blend of blues and hard-edge rock and roll. His voice wasn’t ever described as smooth. He belted his words out in screams and shrieks. He was all about the energy, connecting with the audience live far more effectively than he did through his recordings. He was the kind of guitarist that flew across a fret board like a supersonic jet flying over clear calm skies.
Rory Gallagher died of liver failure in 1995. He lived hard, and it obviously took its toll on his heath. He didn’t really get into the drug scene, but he could put away the ale. He was a man forever in motion. This concert/documentary from Eagle Rock is a perfect window into the lifestyle and music that was Rory Gallagher.
This is not your traditional concert video. There are only a few complete tracks, all from a 1974 performance. The footage is rather odd. While the concert is in widescreen, it’s obvious that was never the intent of the filmmakers. Most of the center of the frame is dominated by almost unnatural close-ups. We get more of Rory’s head-banging than we do his guitar playing. When we do see him at work on the guitar, his ability certainly comes through. While I’m not really a fan of the man’s material, it’s hard not to have a ton of respect and admiration for his ability.
Between the songs and at times over the music, there is the more gentle documentary. This is not one of those polished pieces. The cameras follow Rory as he visits ruins and green hills in his native Ireland. The audio has Rory talking rather introspectively. It’s a quiet contrast to the loud manic stage show. There’s plenty of raw footage of the band in the dressing room. It gets a bit too mundane. I just can’t imagine wanting to watch anyone putting on foot powder for three minutes. It does demonstrate the down-to-earth style of the band. They tune and string their own instruments. Perhaps the best footage is toward the end of the film where we see the band informally jam with some friends after the concert.
If you’re a fan, there’s a lot of heart here. It’s the kind of candid behind-the-scenes look that you just wouldn’t get from the superstars who care more about their image. It’s obvious Rory was never one to worry about a created image. He dressed in comfortable clothes and played a Fender guitar that’s so beat up it would make Willie Nelson a little envious.
The concert is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1. The 1080p image is arrived at with an AVC MPEG-4 codec at an average 36 mbps. The footage is old and it’s raw, so don’t expect a polished film here. With that in mind the high-definition image certainly captures the movie the way it was always meant to be seen. The picture is sharp even if the original images are not.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 is just one of several options here. It’s the strongest sound with the deepest subs and most dynamic sound. The surrounds aren’t used to much effect, but that’s not how the original music was recorded. I’d say the sound presentation is faithful. There is some distortion, but it can’t be helped. Rory screams into his mic, and what you have here is the best that audio engineering could provide.
Additional Footage: There is some footage from a Japanese concert and another half-hour documentary that appears to show Rory considerably younger. It’s a little odd that the front cover picture of Rory is from a much later time.
I hadn’t heard of Rory Gallagher before the Blu-ray arrived. I like a lot of Irish bands and was eager to hear what he sounded like. He looks like an Irish Elvis and even uses a lot of the same expressions, particularly in his mellower moments. The music is hard edge. He was loved by such guitar greats as Eric Clapton and stars like John Lennon. His brother Donal has been trying to keep his legacy alive and appears more than a little bitter that his brother appears to have been forgotten by a lot of people. Perhaps this release can change that just a little bit. “Well, I took it as an omen.“