Irish Tour ‘74
Label: Sony Music/Legacy and Eagle Rock Entertainment
Before Thin Lizzy and U2, Rory Gallagher was one of the few Irish rock musicians to really make an international impact. But he never forgot his Irish roots. At a time when Ireland was plagued by immense political turmoil and violent turbulence, Gallagher continued to tour the country in 1974, when most artists were deterred by fear. Irish Tour ’74 captures a key moment in the history of rock in Ireland, when Gallagher brought together fans of different backgrounds, who all shared a love of his music.
In commemoration of the 40th Anniversary of Rory Gallagher’s Irish Tour, Eagle Rock Entertainment has released Irish Tour ’74 on 2CD and 7-Disc Digital.
By the time of this performance, Gallagher had already established a formidable reputation as one of the finest recording artists and exciting live performers of his generation. He was four years in to a successful solo career following his departure from his critically acclaimed outfit, Taste. The years 1970 to 1974 had produced five albums and an almost continuous schedule of touring found Rory had gone from strength to strength.
He was mid-way in to what would be the most prolific decade of his career and was at the absolute top of his game. By sad contrast, Gallagher’s homeland and his beloved adopted city, Belfast in particular had taken a battering. The political climate of Northern Ireland in the late 60s/early 70s saw Belfast ripped apart by some of the most devastating violence in the country’s history.
By 1973 and the winter of Gallagher’s landmark tour, Belfast was on its knees. Roy Hollingworth, a journalist for Melody Maker in attendance at the Ulster Hall show would describe the city as a shattered, deserted and frightened place. The live music scene was non-existent with all but Gallagher willing to tour during the height of the Troubles tearing the country apart.
While his contemporaries turned their back on the city, it was Rory’s refusal to do so that forever won him the hearts of thousands of fans across the country. “I see no reason for not playing Belfast. Kids still live here,” said Gallagher of his decision to repeatedly play in Belfast.
And so, Rory and his band, Gerry McAvoy (bass), Rod De’ath (drums) and Lou Martin (keys) returned again in the winter of 1973 for what would become the celebrated Irish Tour. Acclaimed filmmaker Tony Palmer was drafted in to document the tour. Palmer had first met Gallagher six years before in 1968 when Taste supported Cream at their famous farewell show at the Royal Albert Hall.
Palmer had been on hand to record the super groups’ final performance but hadn’t failed to notice the extraordinary standout talents of the young Gallagher. When asked to accompany Rory on the Irish tour in the winter of 1973, Palmer seized the opportunity. More than aware of the socio-political situation in the North of the country at the time and Rory’s refusal to be drawn on either side of the argument, Palmer knew “this [was] a very interesting proposition. Rory was at pains to point out he wasn’t active in any sense politically,” but felt very strongly that he should be allowed to play both Northern Ireland and the Republic.
“I don’t want to make a movie with any political content but it will be self evident” said Gallagher.
Both the Dublin and Cork shows also feature heavily on the subsequent documentary but it was Rory’s dignified but defiant impartial stance in Belfast that helped make this recording such a watershed moment for Rory’s
legions of devoted fans.
Irish Tour ’74 is a world class, matchless, blistering live performance. It is one of the greatest live albums of all time. No studio trickery, no overdubs. A truly live album. The stuff of legend. This new deluxe edition features, for the first time on record, each of these iconic shows. Seven albums worth of fully remastered audio including 43 previously unreleased recordings, plus the Tony Palmer directed feature length documentary and large full color booklet. All presented in deluxe packaging. Definitely a must have.
- Written by Randy Patterson
Irish Tour ‘74