There are many reasons why last year's passing of Gary Moore is heartbreaking for both rock and blues music. His contributions to THIN LIZZY, Cozy Powell, Greg Lake and COLOSSEUM II are part of his rock music heritage, yet Moore is perhaps best known for his refined yet gritty blues work. There was hardly anything Gary Moore couldn't execute with a guitar in his hand and that's gospel. As he proved on October 25, 2007 at the Hippodrome Theatre in Leicester Square, London, this includes achieving the impossible: saluting the immortal Jimi Hendrix with a blistering performance worthy of the Voodoo Chile himself.
"Blues For Jimi" will go down as one of the finest tributes by a contemporary ever documented. When you have one of the actual BAND OF GYPSIES staring you dead-eyed and yelling "YEAH!" in full appreciation of such an explosive homage, it's almost like a kiss of gratitude from the other side, to which Moore now belongs alongside Jimi Hendrix.
Why "Blues For Jimi" is so spectacular has little to do with Gary Moore's proficiency in capturing Henrdrix's best-known licks and riffs on "Purple Haze", "Foxey Lady", "Manic Depression" and "Fire". Any well-seasoned guitarist can pull that much off. It's the wrenching sentiment Moore conveys onstage with PRIMAL SCREAM drummer Darrin Mooney and Clapton and ART OF NOISE associate Dave Bronze on bass. Moore plays Jimi's catalog with deference and accuracy straight down to the inhuman note scrambling and screeching psychedelics, yet Moore's true knack in this jaw-dropping performance (and the reason it's such a beautiful tribute) comes in the way of his animated and sumptuous original solos. Each song bears Moore's own added textures and they're beyond phenomenal. Moore sets out to do more than appease one of his biggest inspirations; it's as if Hendrix was playing with and through him that evening in 2007, egging him to pounce upon the next level of rechargeable nirvana. Certainly Moore appears on film to hit a cosmic plane. Gary Moore's feet were planted at the Hippodrome, but he was proverbially looking over yonder across velvet and lavender-tinted horizons where mythical Spanish castles lay in wait for edification.
What Moore does on "I Don't Live Today", "Angel", "Hey Joe" and "Red House" should go down in rock history as some of the greatest re-interpretations of existing work there is. Moore pours audile lava into his freestyle portion of "I Don't Live Today", much as he sieves scorching improv behind Hendrix's beloved solos on "Fire". Even the finale of "Fire" is an ear-crushing high note jerk out that should've brought the audience at the Hippodrome to its knees. Of course, music crowds today being what they are, you're doomed to suffer their blas? rise and fall accolades at this stunning performance. The lackadaisical bastards hardly deserve to have borne witness to such prominence.
The main highlight of "Blues For Jimi" (and there are scores of them throughout) is Moore's assembly with late JIMI HENDRIX EXPERIENCE drummer Mitch Mitchell and BAND OF GYPSIES bassist Billy Cox. With only a short rehearsal time between the three, Moore, Mitchell and Cox more or less feel one another out onstage and still find enough chemistry through "Red House", "Stone Free" and "Hey Joe" to sweeten the deal. Moore is both tempered and blazing through the knuckle down slow jam of "Red House", well-known as one of Jimi Hendrix's personal favorites. Watching Billy Cox bob his head beneath his black fedora and cheer Moore on is a spectacle itself, much as Moore puts on a clinic of blues mastery everyone from Howlin' Wolf to Eric Clapton to Hendrix himself would admire. Or as Moore states at the end of "Red House", this is what you call the real thing.
Moore's reverence of Jimi is so palpable he pulls a few chords with his teeth during the apex of his spellbinding solo fest on "Voodoo Child (Slight Return)" just as Hendrix would've done back in the day. It's enough that Moore nails Jimi's figurative wah-washes of the intro and follows that funky sequence with an impromptu greasy solo before kicking into the first verse.
There are more than a handful of superlatives to grant Moore's exhilarating honor job of Jimi Hendrix, but tour de force rings best. Only Prince can stand up to Moore's champion tribute, but sadly, the latter left this life before more people could discover his genius. Here's hoping "Blues For Jimi" gives Gary Moore his proper due. For sure, the first ones to greet him in the afterlife had to have been Jimi, Mitch Mitchell and of course, Phil Lynott. Here's hoping this otherworldly band of blues-loving gypsies are peeling the paint off of Heaven's gates and running stone free forevermore.
- Ray Van Horn, Jr.