Though his passing earlier this year registered as little more than a blip in Rolling Stone, the loss of Gary Moore proved all too heavy to the rock world. Moore wielded his guitar mastery for more than four decades, lending searing solos and riffs to a dizzying line-up of projects. While he never enjoyed a tenure for more than a few albums with any one outfit, he’s rubbed shoulders with Thin Lizzy, the Traveling Wilburys, Albert King, and even Andrew Lloyd Webber.
Rest assured you’ve heard his playing, if not from his own hands, then through the many guitar heroes he’s inspired: Kirk Hammet, Vivan Campbell, Joe Bonamassa and litany of other esteemed six-stringers cite Moore as a capital influence. With his life cut tragically short earlier last year, Eagle Records has now released his last stand at the 2010 Montreux Jazz Festival on CD, DVD, and Blu-Ray.
No single CD collection of tracks could possibly do Moore’s storied career justice. Still, this live set does an admirable job catching him at both his fiercest and serene, mixing both unhinged tears through classic cuts and a bittersweet taste of new songs. The set kicks off with a thunderous romp through ‘Over the Hills and Far Away,’ an Iron Maiden-style fly-by of the rolling hills of Moore’s native Ireland. In Moore’s typical fashion, a single sustained note of his tone both liquid and lucid is all it takes to get your hairs on end. No modulation effects subtract from his signal chain. It’s just pure gain.
The chugging charge through ‘Military Man’ and the new song ‘Days of Heroes’ brandishes Moore’s song-forward approach. His incendiary lead playing consistently takes a back seat to his Gaelic-infused tales of outlaws and warriors. Only when the songs have seemed to play their course does Moore sharpen their tack with a lacerating display of chops.
He constantly twists classic rock hooks into his own brutal tools. ‘Walking By Myself’ takes the opening riff of ‘Statesboro Blues’ and trounces it through Texas roots. ‘Blood of Emerald,’ dedicated to Skid Row and Thin Lizzy bandmate Phil Lynott, rises from a synth-pad inflected folk melody to a crushing riff more traditionally hammered out by Finnish metal outfits. This isn’t arena rock. This is cathedral rock.
The set’s second new song ‘Where Are You Now’ and a placid marriage of ‘So Far Away’ and ‘Empty Rooms’ scales back the volume without sacrificing the intensity. Newcomers to Moore’s music might hear echoes of 70’s Pink Floyd, but therein lies the guitarist’s secret: to the untrained ear, Gary Moore may sound like one man wearing the many masks of blues, metal, rock, and soul ballads. But in truth, he’s run in so many musical circles that players of so many genres have borrowed his visage. Closing out ‘Parisienne Walkways’ with a blizzard of cadenzas, Moore carves his immortal name into the slopes of Montreux. His playing is a hard rock Ark of the Covenant, a face-melting scripture of guitar history, and while he’s joined the ranks of guitarists gone too soon, this live set ensures his playing will continue to flow through the speakers for years to come.
R.I.P. Gary Moore
April 4th, 1952 – February 6th, 2011