Moore was at his best as a live performer, and he has a half-dozen live discs in his catalog. He was as close to a regular at the Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland as an artist could be, first appearing at the famed event in 1990 and returning for performances six or seven times subsequently. Sadly, the guitarist’s July 2010 performance at the festival would be his last, albeit one of his best. Reuniting with estranged former bandmate Neil Carter (UFO, Wild Horses), Moore put together a new band to tour the summer of 2010, leaving much of his blues-oriented material of recent years behind in favor of a hard-rocking bit of nostalgia for material from his mid-‘80s albums recorded with Carter. Moore’s Live At Montreux 2010 is the last recorded work from the legendary guitarist, and a perfect showcase for his multi-faceted talents as a singer, guitarist, and songwriter.
Gary Moore’s Live At Montreux 2010
Starting with a thundering drumbeat, Moore asks the crowd, “are you ready?” before launching into the lightning-strike intro to his classic Celtic-rock gem “Over the Hills And Far Away.” A U.K. hit from his 1987 Wild Frontiers album, the performance here takes on an eerie, ethereal feel with Moore’s elegant fretwork dancing atop the band’s crashing instrumentation. Moore’s recurring riff hits hard, his solos cut to the bone, the band chimes in with gang-fight harmonies, and the song’s wistful, poetic lyricism is a testament to Moore’s often-overlooked, anthemic songwriting skills.
Another mid-‘80s U.K. hit, “Military Man,” was originally performed by Moore’s friend and former bandmate, Thin Lizzy’s Phil Lynott. Taken from 1985’s Run For Cover album, the song’s anti-war screed is bolstered by a martial rhythm, screaming guitars, and explosive bass and drums before it breaks down into an obviously Lynott-styled soulful vocal break, which itself is accompanied by a beautiful, winsome Moore solo. The Top Five hit “Out In the Fields,” from the same album, was a Lynott/Moore duet; here it’s performed more forcefully than the original, with rapidly-paced rhythms, vocal harmonies almost buried beneath the instrumentation, and taut fretwork that walks a fine line between hard rock and heavy metal in style and fury.
Back To The Blues
Moore’s 2010 Montreux performance wasn’t totally devoid of the guitarist’s blues influence. The mid-tempo ballad “Where Are You Now” displays a certain bluesy hue in both Moore’s somber, melancholy vocals and in some of his rattling guitar phrases. Moore’s pastiche of the instrumental “So Far Away” with his own “Empty Rooms” is another example; the former cleverly mixes jazzy licks and a blues undercurrent with a rock ‘n’ roll heartbeat while the latter blends blues and rock guitar beneath Moore’s mournful vocals. An inspired cover of Jimmy Rogers’ Chicago blues classic “Walking By Myself” is pumped up on steroids, rocking full-tilt with swinging rhythms and Moore’s fluid guitarplay layered in behind his playful, joyous vocal performance.
Live At Montreux 2010 includes the performance of three new songs that Moore had written for what was going to be a Celtic rock-styled album that would be interrupted by his tragic death. “Oh Wild One” is the best of these, a rollicking, raging ode to a friend (Lynott?) that displays some of Moore’s most powerful, albeit nuanced fretwork. The song is a cross between Thin Lizzy and the Pogues, and is Irish to the bone. “Days of Heroes,” another new song, is Moore’s take on early Lizzy, an anthemic toast to days gone by with Celtic-flavored twin guitars, a larger-than-life soundtrack, Moore’s passionate vocals, and a monster solo that takes the guitarist around the world, from Ireland to the U.K. to American blues, and back to the Emerald Isle. The album closes with another Lynott co-write, the hauntingly beautiful “Parisienne Walkways,” wherein Moore reveals his Peter Green influences with a tearful ballad that showcases both the guitarist’s softer, bluesy side and his heavy metal shred.
The Reverend’s Bottom Line
Truth is, there’s but a scattering of blues to be found on Live At Montreux 2010, mostly in the grooves of a handful of songs, and all over the wonderful “Walking By Myself” cover. But that eclecticism is a large part of Moore’s appeal to his fans…much like his contemporary Jeff Beck, one never knew where Moore’s muse would take him.
Fans of Moore’s edgy blues-rock albums like Scars or Bad For You Baby might be disappointed by this one, while those of us who appreciate Moore in whatever milieu he chose at the time of recording will delight in Live At Montreux 2010 as not only a document of a stunning performance, but a fitting and proper swansong for the artist as well. (Eagle Records, released September 20, 2011)
Also on That Devil Music: Gary Moore’s Blues For Jimi album review
Buy the CD from Amazon.com: Gary Moore’s Live At Montreux 2010