[23 October 2012]
Guitar great Gary Moore traversed seamlessly from heavy metal to blues to fusion to just about any style imaginable all while retaining his singular voice. Others have been similar to him in that regard but the lyricism with which he played in each idiom is an all-too-rare gift that few genre hoppers can claim to the degree Moore could. He didn’t so much disappear inside the music, however, as he became so deeply incorporated within it that arbitrary distinctions such as genres simply melted away.
His sudden death in early 2011 at the age of 58 cut short what remained a still promising career and silenced one of the most underappreciated voices of the instrument. The number of posthumous releases has been kept to a minimum since his passing, so fans might wisely greet the release of this 2007 performance from the Hippodrome Theatre in London with both open arms and a modicum of suspicion.
The circumstances under which this was recorded are, to say the least, a bit odd. It was a launch party for the DVD release of the Jimi Hendrix Experience’s Live at Monterey, at which Moore performed a series of the master’s tunes and at which he was briefly joined by Hendrix alums Billy Cox and Mitch Mitchell. The somewhat slender audience is a shame, given the sheer awesomeness that Moore unleashes during this hour-plus set, but be that as it may, the audience this DVD will gain now will increase those numbers exponentially.
Moore’s faithful to the original material although not cloyingly so––the real joy of watching him tear through numbers such as “Purple Haze” and “Manic Depression” is not in any radical interpretation of the material or because he re-imagines Hendrix’s original lines but because you can up close his own mastery of the instrument––the subtle but furious left hand work, an underappreciated right hand, and a voice on the instrument that was as soulful as it was far-reaching.
Additionally, Moore’s singing voice is in fine shape and he never works too hard to duplicate Hendrix’s own idiosyncratic singing style. He captures the phrasing but eases his way through “Angel” and “Fire” while his performance on “The Wind Cries Mary” is over far too soon. Joined by bassist Dave Bronze and Darrin Mooney, Moore proves that he too also knew how to work best in a power trio.
The real downer of this whole set is when Mitchell and Cox finally appear––although there’s a credible reading of “Red House” (and you really get to see how much Mitchell––who passed in 2008––really felt the music) “Hey Joe” is a bit of a snooze fest that sounds––aside from Moore’s playing––like your average blues jam. It’s enough to derail the whole affair momentarily before Bronze and Mooney come back for a ripping reading of “Voodoo Child (Slight Return)”.
Moore has proven his ability to work the material of the masters before––his 1995 tribute to Peter Green, simply titled Blues For Greeny is a prime example. His reputation remains unsullied here, even in the moments where the music doesn’t shine as brightly as it could––read: the Cox and Mitchell tunes.
A CD version of the event accompanies the Blu-ray and DVD, but it doesn’t tell a remarkably different story––this isn’t the unearthing of some great lost gig from Moore––“Stone Free” remains as unrealized in the aural medium as it is in the visual one. “I Don’t Live Today” comes off well and if you can’t see his maneuvers during “Purple Haze”, then you’ll have all the more fun imagining them or making your own while you air guitar your way through traffic or across the bedroom.
Perhaps the next thing we’ll see is a thorough reissue of Moore’s solo work, along with a widespread critical reassessment of his work. Like Rory Gallagher, another storied Irish guitar, Moore’s legacy is richer and his music richer than sales figures and magazine awards may have suggested. Blues From Jimi is a welcome note from a long gone friend but it’s also just enough to give us the blues for Gary, a man taken from us far too soon.
There are no bonus materials on the Blu-ray/DVD and the overall rating reflects no lack of prowess on the part of the artist but instead an attempt to bring together three legends with results that not commensurate with the individual legacies.