Rory Gallagher’s unshakeable spirit burns bright in Vancouver with a Band of Friends

all shitty iPhone photos by the Newt

By Steve Newton

Vancouver’s hardcore Rory Gallagher fans came out to pack the Fox Cabaret last night, and they left with their ears well blasted by the Irish guitar legend’s deathless, blues-drenched tunes and roughly 123,972 wicked Stratocaster licks.

The latter came courtesy Davy Knowles, the 31-year-old picker from the Isle of Man who’s been a Gallagher fanatic since he was 11. Last year he joined forces with Gallagher’s ex-bassist Gerry McAvoy–who played on all 14 of Rory’s albums–and former Gallagher drummer Ted McKenna (the Photo-Finish and Top Priority albums) to tour North America as Band of Friends and rekindle the power of Rory Gallagher’s music for the faithful.

The trio didn’t waste any time getting to the good stuff last night, jumping right into Junior Wells’ “Messin’ with the Kid”, which Gallagher recorded on his self-titled debut album of ’71. In a phone interview 10 days earlier, McAvoy had told me that Knowles’ playing had “tons of feel”, and it was clear from the get-go that that was true. And Knowles integrated his own Strat-strangling style into things.

“The last thing I want is a guy comin’ along, copying everything note-for-note,” McAvoy explained. “Cause I mean obviously with Rory, he never did the same thing twice. There was always a lot of ad-libbing going on there, ya know.”

That feeling of staying loose while paying tribute to the source material never wavered through the night as the trio sweated out stone-cold Rory classics like “Bad Penny”, “Shadow Play”, “Bullfrog Blues”, and “Tattoo’d Lady”. Perhaps the most memorable moments came during “A Million Miles Away”, which McAvoy dedicated directly to his fallen bandleader and friend.

After the show fans lined up to get autographs and/or just thank the trio for their awesome performance. I got Knowles to sign my copy of Roll Away, the 2007 debut CD by Back Door Slam, the acclaimed power trio he fronted while still in his teens.

Then I laid down 40 bones for a copy of McAvoy’s book focusing on his musical adventures with Gallagher, Riding Shotgun, because, hey, us authors gotta stick together. I got him to sign it, of course, then asked Knowles and McKenna to add their autographs as well, as a souvenir of the night.

I never did get to see Rory Gallagher perform in concert, which I deeply regret, but now the sting of that admission has been dulled, at least. Many thanks to Ron Simmonds and the Canadian Pacific Blues Society for making it happen.


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