by James Fleming

Rory Gallagher was always a cult figure, rather than a multi-platinum selling pop star. He preferred to be true to his fans and himself rather than be on the cover of Rolling Stone or to outsell Marc Bolan. And, as with all cult figures, he’s intensely beloved by his fans. For all 40 people upstairs at Monroe’s Live last Friday night, he’s an icon who outshines even the far more popular Thin Lizzy. And he kicks Bono’s arse.

This frankly abysmal turnout doesn’t seem to deter Band of Friends one iota, and they deliver everywhere it counts. They go full metal jacket from the off, playing some of the finest tunes ever recorded, and certainly they’re the finest ever recorded by an Irish artist.

As Mr. Gerry McAvoy says between songs: “it’s a fun night!” And as a be-denimed drunk stumbles towards the stage roaring ‘Shinkicker!’ he’s rewarded with that gloriously ballsy riff that tears out of Marcel Scherpenzeel’s Fender amp.

And while we’re on the subject; ladies and gentlemen we didn’t think it could be done, but Marcel fills Rory’s shoes the way he would’ve wanted them filled: with passion and fire. Just a look at his face while he coaxes, teases and tears licks out of his ’61 Stratocaster and all doubt leaves the mind. This is the only man for the job. And a marvellous job he does.

The band are as tight as a nun’s doo-dah, the chemistry between Gerry, Marcel and Ted McKenna is undeniable. They play off each other seamlessly, in a way that is only rivalled by the likes of the Who or Rory’s original live performances. They storm and stomp through the rock n’ rollers, they glide through ‘A Million Miles Away’ and by the time they reach their final song, the hotly anticipated ‘Tattoo’d Lady/Shadowplay’ medley, all forty of us are on the dance floor, ready and willing to boogie all night if we can.

You couldn’t tear your eyes away from the looks on their faces. If you thought that they were just cashing in on Rory’s legacy, you are gravely mistaken. The smiles on stage said it all man, there’s only pure, undiluted joy tearing up the boards tonight.

The 90 minutes flew by, not a second of it wasted. And every time you thought ‘Bullfrog Blues’ was over, they kicked straight back into another 12 bars of 24 karat gold. Great night.