Rory Gallagher’s third live album finds the guitarist at something of a crossroads. While his playing continues to be sharp and tough throughout the subtly in both the vocals and playing that marked his previous live recordings as essential is buried beneath a hard rock assault. This doesn’t do the material on Stage Struck any favors, as the material presented here from his most recent albums (Calling Card, Photo-Finish, Top Priority) all are a bit inconsistent compared to his previous albums.
While Stage Struck will still be essential for fans of the blues guitarist, this isn’t the album for neophytes to dive into. The selections are gathered from Gallagher’s 1979-1980 tour, which included stops in San Francisco, Melbourne, Paris and Los Angeles.
As with his previous live recordings, the support he gets from his long time rhythm section of Gerry McAvoy on bass and Ted McKenna on drums is solid throughout. Unfortunately, there's a lack of subtlety to the playing and Gallagher often sounds rushed as if he’s impatient to get to the next song.
The material on Stage Struck ranges from very good to mediocre, but more often reflects the weaknesses of the original studio albums. It also would have been helpful for the performances to be a bit more varied—for example, mixing some of Gallagher’s acoustic playing with the harder driving rockers presented here.
The grinding cycle of recording & touring that Gallagher was on may have contributed to this, as it certainly impacted the quality of his writing. Perhaps the hard living on the road also played a part in the sound of Stage Struck. Regardless of the cause, Stage Struck gives us a portrait of an artist who clearly needed a break to reassess his career.