Songs & Stories:
New York Remembers
Rory Gallagher

directed by Victor Zimet,
Stephanie Silber & Seamus Kelleher
(Home Team, 2005)

By the time the cultural revolution that was the 1960s was happening in most of the Western world, Ireland was quiet. Despite being such a young state, the pervading consciousness was one of fear and repression. A grey, dour poverty was spread thick across the land, as church-state collusion led to a firm grip on people's attitudes and an enforced piety prevailed.

Yet through the darkness, some sunshine managed to force its way through. For young people who were reading about rock 'n' roll in the U.K. and U.S., it must all have felt so distant. Things changed when Van Morrison growled his gnarly majestic way into the Top Tens that mattered with his snarling group, Them. Van got big quick and soon left the troubled streets of Belfast for the more hippified environs of San Francisco and Woodstock, N.Y. But the man who was the true symbol of Irish rock was Rory Gallagher.

Rory was a one-man Plant and Page, a man possessed of the spirit of Robert Johnson, but a man born in Donegal and raised in Cork. While Van the Man's poetic championing became ever more distant, Rory was always real.

Following an apprenticeship stint in a showband, Rory formed his first group, the powerful trio Taste. As Taste's legend grew, so too did Rory's. As songwriter, singer and guitarist with the band, he was the central force that whetted the palates of the fans. After an explosive show-stealing turn at the Isle of Wight Festival in 1970, Rory disbanded Taste and went it alone. This was the beginning of a solo career that was to reach incredible highs, garnering critical acclaim from critics and peers, but also the unbridled love and adulation of a massive fanbase, particularly in his native country where he was nothing less than a god. This was never more in evidence than during his funeral following his tragic death in 1995 at the age of 47.

Songs & Stories: New York Remembers Rory Gallagher looks at the tribute paid to Rory by a number of mainly Irish-American musicians in New York's The Bottom Line club on Oct. 23, 2002. Organised by Blackthorn guitarist and Gallagher devotee Seamus Kelleher, the concert featured contributions from Kelleher himself, Pierce Turner, Larry Kirwan (from Black 47), Sean Fleming, Bugs Moran, Justin Jordan and many more.

The DVD features footage from the concert as well as interviews with the main players and Donal Gallagher, Rory's brother and manager. Interspersed throughout are performances from Rory himself, and it is these that add the requisite poignance to the whole thing. We are also reminded of the power and the glory of the main man himself, and what a tragic loss he was to the world of music.

Highlights are the sets from Fleming, whose voice has an Irish bluesy twang and power, Turner (who also gives it loads!) and Kirwan. Organiser Kelleher deservers special mention also -- not just for taking on the whole undertaking, but for his brilliant guitar work.

It sounds like a cliche, but the gig seemed to have made some kind of spiritual connection with the late, great hero, and his spirit comes through the musicians' performances. I know, I know, but it's true.

Songs & Stories is a great document of what was obviously a special night for all who were in attendance.

by Sean Walsh
8 April 2006