Gary Moore

Review of Gary Moore, originally written for The Japan Times

Concert shows more of Moore can only be better

Guitarist Gary Moore’s blues-rock talent shines at Nakano Sun Plaza

By FRED VARCOE

Somebody’s judgment must be wrong.

Last year, Yngwie Malmsteen played the Budokan; last week Gary Moore played Nakano Sun Plaza. Malmsteen is a technically brilliant guitarist with all the musical feeling of a cardboard box and a face that girls would die for (and when they hear his music, they no doubt frequently do).

Moore, on the other hand, looks like he’s been visited by a particularly nasty biblical curse, but plays and sings as if touched by the hand of God.

Moore may be slightly less than megabig in Japan, but he is recognized in Europe as one of rock’s premier guitarists and as a strong singer and powerful songwriter.

But he took some time finding both success, in commercial terms, and a firm musical direction. He first emerged with Skid Row — no relation to the new U.S. band of the same name, which was unaware of the duplication — back in the early ’70s, before moving on to the heavy power-jazz of drummer Jon Hiseman’s band Coliseum II.

Moore gained wider fame when he joined fellow Irishman Phil Lynott in Thin Lizzy for a short spell in 1973 after the departure of Eric Bell and again in 1978, before being fired a little more than a year later for missing two gigs on a U.S. tour.

Nevertheless he formed a fruitful, if not productive, partnership with Lynott that resulted in Moore achieving chart success for the first time with “Parisienne Walkways,” from his patchy 1978 debut album “Back on the Streets.”

There is no doubt the partnership could have gone on to greater things, but Lynott finally overabused himself and croaked in 1986.

By then, Moore had half a dozen albums in the racks, a firm reputation as a guitarist and performer and enough strong songs to make up a strong set.

And a strong set is what he served up at Nakano Sun Plaza. Opening with the title track from his new album “After the War,” Moore comes across as aggressive, but as the crowd responds — the Sun Plaza does at least have the advantage of being intimate — a smile creases his already well-creased face.

Barely had the chunky riffs of “After the War” started to fade when Moore crunched into the old Yardbirds’ hit “Shapes of Things.” The original was powerful enough, but Moore’s version — even on the “Victims of the Future” album — is simply devastating. Riffs crash down all around, colored by slick overlays and a scorching lead with a creditable lead vocal from keyboard player/guitarist Neil Carter. As good a version of a hard-rock song as you’ll find.

But although Moore’s blues-rock virtuosity reeks of venom, he has a gentler side to his musical soul, and on the instrumental “So Far Away,” accompanied only by Neil Carter’s synthesizer, he showed the power of the sustained note as the Sun Plaza glowed to the sound of Moore’s Les Paul in a way that perhaps only Carlos Santana has ever equaled.

Another strong characteristic in Moore’s singing, playing and songwriting is his ability to blend Irish folk music influences into his naturally hard-edged style without ever compromising on power.

Indeed, the passion Moore derives from his homeland is evident on so many of his songs, and those musicians whose passion fires their music invariably have a head start over the likes of Yngwie Malmsteem and the cardboard box set.

On numbers such as “Blood of Emeralds” (“all about Ireland”) from the new album; the acoustic “Johnny Boy”; and the main set’s final number, “Over the Hills and Far Away,” with its beautiful, warm emotional hook, Moore fired up himself and his fans and demonstrated a degree of intensity sadly lacking in so much of today’s soulless hard rock.

Moore encored first with two rockers — “Rockin’ Every Night” and “All Messed Up” — before coming back for “Johnny Boy” and the divine “Parisienne Walkways” with his solos lit up by laser-intense sustain and lightning flashes of speed.

If quality determined the size of hall an artist played, then Gary Moore should be playing the Tokyo Dome and Yngwie Malmsteen should be playing the men’s room at Shibuya Station. Somebody’s judgment must be wrong, but it wasn’t that of the 2,000 or so people at Nakano Sun Plaza.

I guess it must be Yngwie’s.


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