Between 1969 and his death in February 2011, Northern Irish guitarist Gary Moore enjoyed a reputation as a virtuoso player on his signature Les Paul and the Fender Stratocaster. He worked in a variety of genres from hard rock to heavy metal to blues rock to jazz fusion to prog rock. A number of peers shared the studio and stage with him including George Harrison, Greg Lake, and Albert King. He was also a member of Thin Lizzy. Through it all, his most consistent musical foundation was certainly old school blues.
That’s very evident on Live at Bush Hall 2007, an intimate show recorded at the 400-seat London auditorium on May 17, 2007. Originally broadcast by Planet Rock radio, the concert featured then-new songs from Moore’s then-upcoming Close As You Get album which was built on blues numbers like “Eyesight to the Blind” and “I Had a Dream.”
That night, the band offered a stripped-down, down to the basics evening with Moore on guitars and vocals, Pete Rees on bass, and Vic Martin on keyboards. Brian Downey, a fellow veteran of Thin Lizzy and player on Close as You Get, again joined Moore for the drums.
On many of these live tracks, Moore shows he knows all the blues and roots rock clichés, as on the two warm-up numbers, his heavy and original “If the Devil Made Whiskey” and Chuck Berry’s “Thirty Days,” both from Close as You Get. For the most part, when he runs through blues standards like Sonny Boy Williamson’s “Eyesight to the Blind,” we get no surprises.
On the other hand, “Walking by Myself” – a Jimmy Rogers song Moore made his own on 1990’s Still Got the Blues – quickly becomes an audience participation sing-along which demonstrates Moore could pull the crowd in when he wanted. The most magical moment is perhaps the last song, Son House’s “Sundown” where Moore goes solo with his acoustic slide guitar on one of the longest Delta rides you’ll ever hear.
For my money, Moore is at his best when he makes his guitar cry, beg, pray, and squeal. “Trouble at Home” and “Don’t Believe a Word” (the latter originally penned/released by fellow Lizzy comrade Phil Lynott for his own band), get slow and emotional with the low-down blues. This is also true of Moore’s then-new and very soulful “I Had a Dream” and another Moore classic, “Still Got the Blues.” We can also hear Moore’s range when he stretches in extended jams like Johnny “Guitar” Watson’s “Too Tired” and the encore, “The Blues Is Alright.”
Live at Bush Hall 2007 is most obviously going to appeal to Moore devotees who’ll appreciate hearing live versions of songs not available elsewhere. It’s not the sort of show likely to widen Moore’s appeal, as it’s not brimming with his better-known songs. In the current climate of more new blues releases than anyone can keep track of, it’s not going to stand out in a very crowded field. Still, any night spent with Gary Moore is a night well spent, especially if you turn the lights down and let yourself go with the slow burners.
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