A tension exists within Irish blues guitarist Gary Moore, between his natural musicianship and his flamboyant showmanship. Last night at the Glasgow Carling Academy Lins and I were delighted to see that the musician won for at least 90% of the time.
When Gary Moore puts his mind to it he can be a brilliantly expressive, powerful and melodic player, constantly re-arranging his songs and solos with added twists and new interpretations. When he follows the late Albert King's advice to not play "too many notes" it frees him to play around with interesting chord progressions, long bends, deft touches and harmonic flourishes, enabling him build an extended guitar solo more convincingly than any guitarist I have heard. On slow songs such as Midnight Blues, Still got the Blues, All Your Love and I Had a Dream, and on quicker ones such as Walking by Myself, Since I Met You Baby, and Oh Pretty Woman - this was the Moore we heard - and it was stunning. It was interesting to see how much more free to improvise Moore is when not being recorded. Whereas on live albums his solos are highly studied, there was a sense that in Glasgow he was sometimes flying by the seat of his pants, with all its added excitement and spontaneous creativity.
On the other hand, sometimes Moore simply grimaces, put his head down and play lots of scales, very very fast. While I find this rather dull- it is the latter which seems to brings the crowd to their feet in rapturous wonder and he indulged in this egotistical display on 2 songs, Too Tired and Parisienne Walkways. These were however minor blemishes in what was other wise a brilliant, brilliant show.
Vocally Moore has sometimes struggled but he was on very good form tonight, and as usual he benefitted from being backed by very competent musicians of whom Brian Downey (yes - that Brian Downey) was especially good.
The crowd took a while to warm up because of a lamentable support act and an over-long interval. However by the end of the night the atmosphere was overwhelming. Moore himself clearly hadn't realised how well he was going down until at the very end the house-lights went up and he saw the crowd, clapping, stamping and waving. Surprised, he stopped introducing the band and invited the crowd to singalong to "The Blues is Alright" an invitation the near-capacity crowd accepted with glee.
Moore may look as if he has been mauled by a Tiger prior to coming on stage. But what a show he delivers once there!
"Hey, hey - the blues is alright!"