If you haven’t read Part One, I would recommend that you do so now, otherwise, this post won’t make sense.
In 1978, a live album was produced which set a benchmark for all live albums that followed. That’s not my opinion, but a rough approximation of the consensus among music journalists and other aficionados of the time and in subsequent years. Even in the last few years, it has topped polls.
I don’t have the experience or understanding of the technicalities involved to make a judgement. Just as I can only explain my experiences of a live gig from my personal, non-technical, perspective, when I listened to recordings (in those days on vinyl or – more likely – cassette), I just enjoyed it for what it was.
Live and Dangerous formed part of my own collection of albums, and I had a copy before I bought any of the band’s studio albums. If you wanted to play air guitar in your bedroom, this was the one to play it to.
So, when the darkness descended and I heard the words: “Are you out there?” I had a sense of what was coming next, because I’d heard that distinctive Irish voice say the words so many times before. I remember feeling the hairs on the back of my neck prickle.
The pause was brief, just long enough to raise the sense of anticipation.
When Phil Lynott then asked: “Are you ready?” I knew something spectacular was going to happen. This video was taken at a different gig, and doesn’t include the opening words used at Milton Keynes, but this is pretty much what happened next.
With an explosive opening like that, you just knew this was going to be a brilliant show.
I’d been listening to Thin Lizzy since around 1977, and had a few of their albums. I liked the sound, and I liked the themes they sang about. Yes, there was the occasional reference to love and romance, but there were far more tales of cowboys, gangsters, gamblers, soldiers, all manner of heroes and villains. With titles like Jailbreak, Massacre, Chinatown, Killer on the Loose and Genocide, these weren’t songs designed to appeal to the heart; this was pulp fiction set to music. If you listen to those studio albums, and you like rock music, you’d be hard pressed to complain about them. I would argue that there were better alternatives. Live, though, they were in a class of their own.
Phil Lynott’s stage presence was immense. I had the privilege of meeting him backstage on two other occasions and was surprised how slight he was, and self-effacing. If it wasn’t for his hair, you might pass him in the street without noticing, yet he had the ability to dominate a stage.
Brian Downey’s drumming was perfect as ever, thunderous when it needed to be, the beat an essential underpin to each song. The introduction of Darren Wharton on keyboards must have added an extra dimension to their sound (I can’t judge properly, because I never saw them live without him). But the key ingredient (Lynott aside) to any Thin Lizzy performance was always going to be the dual lead guitars. Scott Gorham had been with the band since 1974, and was a permanent fixture by now. He was joined on this tour by Snowy White (who later went on to release the single Bird of Paradise). I didn’t know anything about White at the time, and know precious little more about him now, but he did what he was paid to do with and we were treated to the brilliant guitar breaks that were the signature of every Thin Lizzy song.
I genuinely can’t explain what that performance did for me. You really had to be there. But the energy levels, the interaction with the crowd, the thunderflashes (there were more later) and the clever use of lights, left me buzzing for days afterwards. From that moment on, I became a committed fan, and there would be several other occasions when I saw them play, never to be disappointed.
Memory does terrible things as time passes, so I may be wrong about this, but I seem to think we had to leave before the end of the gig. If we hadn’t, we’d have missed the last train. I hate going before the end – I guess I like completeness. But when I did leave it was with a certainty that I would see Thin Lizzy again. There was no way I wanted to go through life and not experience that heart-pumping excitement.
It had been a mixed day. Travel and alcohol, a bunch of mates you couldn’t do anything than have a laugh with, an unusual choice of acts – none of them seemed to fit together as part of a line-up – though some great songs were played once in a while. And then the introduction to what a great live band could do for you.
Rest assured, I will return to Thin Lizzy gigs in the future. Why wouldn’t I? They are still the best live band I’ve ever seen – and I have seen quite a lot.
For now, though, and just because it was out in the open air at night time, I’ll leave you with this.