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Concert and documentary combo shine a much-deserved spotlight on Phil Lynott

Audio and video of a 1978 Thin Lizzy show in Sydney and a critically acclaimed documentary serve as a reminder of the talent and tenacity of Lynott, one of Ireland’s finest songwriters.
Photo courtesy of Mercury Studios.

Photo courtesy of Mercury Studios.

PHIL LYNOTT AND THIN LIZZY
PHIL LYNOTT: SONGS FOR WHILE I’M AWAY + THIN LIZZY: THE BOYS ARE BACK IN TOWN – LIVE AT THE SYDNEY OPERA HOUSE OCTOBER 1978
Mercury Studios (2-DVD + CD / Blu-ray + DVD + CD)
★★★★

By John Curley

This combo package of last year’s excellent documentary Phil Lynott: Songs For While I’m Away and a cleaned-up version of Thin Lizzy’s October 1978 outdoor show at the Sydney Opera House is a must have for fans of Lynott’s work.

The Sydney concert sounds fantastic, so the CD of it could be considered the highlight of the three-disc package. The video of the concert is clearer than previous versions, but the source is 44-year-old videotape, so viewers should not expect HD quality. That said, the video really captures the excitement that the band generated. The many shots of the crowd show fans pumping their fists and bopping in time with the music, fully engaged in the performance. There is the option to watch the original video and the lost performances separately or together in the order of the actual performance. The video quality of the songs that are part of the lost performances is lesser than that of the other songs.

The band – Lynott on bass and lead vocals, Scott Gorham on guitar and backing vocals, Gary Moore on guitar and backing vocals and drummer Mark Nauseef – kicked off the Sydney set with a rip-roaring version of “Jailbreak.” Lynott’s magnetic stage presence is immediately evident, and he had the crowd focused from the word go. The rocker “Bad Reputation” featured outstanding drumming by Nauseef and great guitar work by Moore and Gorham. Lynott’s lead vocal powers the sharp, biting “Waiting For An Alibi.”

  

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Lynott introduced “Cowboy Song” by saying “This is for all the cowboys in Sydney.” The band then delivered a tight performance of the song that received a big reaction from the crowd. “The Boys Are Back In Town” had the crowd cheering throughout as the band gave a rock-solid performance of their signature tune. During “Are You Ready,” Lynott introduced the band, saying that Gorham was from Los Angeles, Nauseef from New York City and that Moore, like Lynott, was from Ireland. Moore’s lead guitar playing was the highlight of “Me And The Boys.” And Lynott engaged the crowd to participate in call-and-response vocals during the performance of the straight-ahead rocker “Baby Drives Me Crazy.”

The highlights of the lost performances from the Sydney concert include the rocking performance of “Don’t Believe A Word,” which Lynott said was written by Gorham; the blues/rock hybrid “Still In Love With You,” which Lynott dedicated to the women in the audience and stated that it was the one slow song that they would perform in the set; and Gorham and Moore’s stellar guitar playing in “Johnny The Fox Meets Jimmy The Weed.”

The documentary was written and directed by Emer Reynolds and runs 113 minutes. It’s a very comprehensive look at Lynott’s career and his personal life. Archive audio interviews with Lynott tell part of the story as do bits of Thin Lizzy and Lynott solo songs. Family, friends and bandmates interviewed include Lynottt’s wife Caroline Taraskevics and his daughters Sarah Lynott and Cathleen Lynott, his uncle Peter Lynott, cousin Monica Lynott, Suzi Quatro, James Hetfield, Huey Lewis, Adam Clayton, Midge Ure, journalist Niall Stokes, and Thin Lizzy bandmates Eric Bell, Scott Gorham and Darren Wharton. Peter Lynott’s familial pride shines though when he beams as he discusses his excitement at seeing Phil and Thin Lizzy perform “Jailbreak” in concert.

Archive audio of Philomena Lynott is used to tell the story of her becoming pregnant with Phil at 17, being treated abusively because the father was Black and eventually becoming overwhelmed and sending Phil to live with her parents in Dublin. Peter Lynott, who is Philomena’s younger brother, discusses how he and Phil were basically raised like brothers since they were close in age. And he discusses the fights that Phil got into when he first went to school in Dublin because he was the only Black child in the school and was racially abused by his classmates.

Bell discusses meeting Lynott and drummer Brian Downey, who had met at school and were playing in a band called Skid Row, and how he asked them to form a band with him. The three of them made up the initial lineup of Thin Lizzy. Clips of TV appearances of the band promoting “The Rocker” and “Whiskey In The Jar” show the power of Thin Lizzy in its early years.

Ure states at one point that there was a push and pull within Lynott between the sensitive poet and the rock star. And that seems to be a constant throughout the film, with Lynott going from the hard-rocking and hard-living musician to writing quite beautiful songs about both of his daughters. Lynott’s fierce pride in his Irish heritage is also a theme in the film, as shown when he corrects MTV’s Nina Blackwood when she refers to him as “British” during an interview.

Director Reynolds deserves credit for not sensationalizing Lynott’s story of rock stardom and sad, early death at age 36. Lynott is presented in the film as a very deep, quite talented and somewhat flawed man.

Gorham provides some insight on the band’s disintegration as drugs became an issue, and he speaks with great regret about how the band just went their separate ways after their final concert in Nuremberg, Germany in September 1983. Gorham states that he was crushed when he received word of Lynott’s death in January 1986.

Audio options for the documentary and the concert film are Dolby Digital Stereo, Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS Surround Sound.

The trailer for Phil Lynott: Songs For While I’m Away can be seen below:

   

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