Band of Friends - Too Much is Not Enough
It is an important pre-requisite of any reviewer who encounters the words 'hommage' or 'celebration of' or 'tribute to' in the description or pitch for a band or a musician, that they have to make an extra effort not to bring their inevitable presumptions and prejudices to the table. Thus armed (or disarmed?), The Hat approached the first EP/DVD package from the Band of Friends with an open ear and a determination not to be overwhelmed by the Rory Gallagher history and legend that comes with it. I am so glad I did.
Gerry McAvoy stood alongside Rory on bass for two decades and played on every studio album. Then he went on to play with Nine Below Zero and Champion Jack Dupree and in 2010 set up the Band of Friends along with drummer Ted McKenna (who has Alex Harvey and Ian Gillan on his CV), played with Rory for four years and is on three of his releases and Marcel Scherpenzeel, ex Wolfpin, a hugely talented guitarist steeped in Gallagher music and style. So we have three mega talents, all of whom have paid their substantial dues over many years, share a great love for Rory Gallagher and his music and have a common interest in delivering the finest blues rock.
The DVD is a well produced record of a 2013 live concert at Remchingen in Germany and within minutes you can see why they won the Best Live Band Award at the 2013 European Blues Awards. Their energy is astonishing. Eleven, mainly well-known Rory numbers are covered and the screen positively crackles with the electricity generated by this powerful trio. Whilst the playing and singing of Marcel is superb and central and the driving force from Ted wraps round everything, it is Gerry who dominates the stage, striding about and prowling around, bonding directly with the audience and almost controlling their excitement and passion. There are several points where this trio take the crowd from wild air punching and clapping to almost total silence in the space of one number. The Band is having fun and is totally in charge. Classics like 'A Million Miles Away' and 'Bought and Sold' could not have been delivered better.
Inevitably, the Rory loving audience are on their side from the first note and the call and response numbers have the band flying and the audience roaring - but what comes across from this DVD is that this is as far away from being a 'tribute' band as you can get. They play brilliantly, they play Rory brilliantly but in doing so they leave no one in any doubt that they are a superb band in their own right – who happen to love Rory Gallagher and his music. The DVD is terrific and you must see them live.
The EP is totally different. There are six self-penned numbers and a final famous Rory song “If I had a reason”. McAvoy has made it clear that although they are anxious to keep the Rory flame burning, there is more to them and the range of song-writing and musicianship shown here clearly demonstrates that. The lyrics are for the main part reflective and full of sometimes bitter memories of lost times and lost love, but occasionally, as in the track 'Leap of Faith' there is an optimistic look to a future promised land. The closing track, their version of 'If I had a reason' is delicate and beautiful balanced. Rory would have been proud.
For The Hat, this trio live know how to whip up the perfect storm. They are currently on a fairly lengthy tour taking them through Germany, France, the UK and Italy – ending up appropriately in Dublin and Belfast. Check their website and get to a gig.