[31 March 2009]
PopMatters Associate Music Editor
Originally aired on Irish television, and later released on VHS as Messin’ with the Kid—Live at the Cork Opera House, this Rory Gallagher Live in Cork DVD is a vastly superior, especially in sound quality, documentation of that landmark 1987 homecoming concert.
Though somewhat lesser known, Rory Gallagher was a virtuoso guitarist on level with Jimmy Page and Stevie Ray Vaughn. This fiery set showcases his undeniable musical talent, not to mention his gifts in the area of showmanship. And it’s all him, no flash necessary. Because it was filmed for television, as well as because Gallagher needed no frills, there are no pyrotechnics, props or lame lightshow gimmicks. It’s just the man, his band and the music.
Highlights include favorites like “Tattoo’d Lady” and the incendiary blues of “I Ain’t No Saint” early in the set and the joyous bar room boogie of “When My Baby She Left Me” and the mesmerizing magnificence of “Out on the Western Plain” later in the show. Throughout, Gallagher and his band are clearly having a ball, and that obvious enjoyment lends an extra surge of energy to these already electrifying songs.
Gallagher is in fine voice for every track too, but it’s no secret that everyone in the audience is there for the fancy fretwork. Luckily, the cameramen were cognizant of this, and plenty of close-ups on Gallagher’s fingers are featured.
In addition to the live performance, Live in Cork also features several interesting extras that provide an in-depth look at the city of Cork and the environment that made Gallagher a musician and a legend. The disc’s main menu consists of an artist’s interpretation of an intersection in Cork, complete with buildings in muted colors, a grey and grim Irish sky, and street sign arrows pointing left and right.
Choosing left will take you to another corner street pole with a marker labeled “Guitar Shop”. Clicking that will lead you down the avenue to the animated storefront doors of Crowley’s Music Center, where an informational blurb appears telling details of the place where Gallagher got his first guitar. Crowley’s is apparently the only important landmark on that side of town, at least on this particular tour of Cork, because the only other option is to return to the main menu.
Choosing the right facing arrow this time leads to a much more populated pole. Following the street sign toward the “City Library” takes you down another street and through another animated door to a menu designed as books upon a shelf. Volumes include a Discography which, when clicked, presents all of Gallagher’s releases in a record store display bin that you can pick from at random. The “City Library” also holds a “book” of “Rory Memorabilia,” including festival programs, photo galleries and press clippings.
Moving back to the main menu and choosing “Other Rory Landmarks” reveals a menu that summarizes several Cork name places, in a sort of guidebook format, such as Crawford Municipal Art Gallery, where Gallagher attended Art School in his teens; Everyman Palace Theatre, a classic Victorian venue which Gallagher helped restore and St. Oliver’s Cemetery, where Gallagher is buried.
All of this is a wonderful, if remedial, introduction to Gallagher, and the concept of a city tour, along with the artwork is fabulous, but most people will want to skip all that and get straight to the show. I can imagine the novelty of the menu will wear thin quite quickly upon repeat viewings, because the concert must be accessed via the street signs, as well. First choosing left and then picking “Cork Opera House” from the markers and waiting to travel down the street, up the stairs and through the doors before getting to yet another menu—which offers standard choices like Play All or Track Select, as well as sound options—can be a bit tedious.
But the show is most definitely worth it. Not only was the performance brilliant, but the spare staging and clean lighting make for crisp, clear video quality, allowing viewers to completely geek out on exactly what and how Gallagher is playing (an absolute must when watching musicians of Gallagher’s caliber). As mentioned, the sound is excellent, no matter which sound option you choose from the menu. Whether Live in Cork is your first exposure to Rory Gallagher, or you’re finally upgrading from that old copy of Messin’ with the Kid, this DVD is well worth checking out.