Gary Moore had gone to bed after a quiet evening eating and drinking with friends in Spain. It was February 2011 and some hours later I was leaving a concert at the Harmonie in Bonn when the news swept round the hall that Moore was dead of a heart attack at only 58. Fitting then for me to be back at that same venue with Henrik Freischlader and two members of Gary’s final band paying the great Irish Bluesman tribute.
It’s actually a gloriously sunny Spring day and I’m sitting in the Harmonie beer garden with the band for this evening Moritz Meinschäfer, Pete Rees and Vic Martin. There’s a rumbling of wheels behind me and Meinschäfer jokes – “Here’s Henrik arrivng on his rollerskates!” When I look round he’s actually only wheeling luggage, but he has a smile and energy about him that says he may well have just been for a turn at the ‘Half-pipe’ down by the Rhine. Hands are shaken, people are hugged and we’re all aware that we are here to remember Gary Moore. Indeed, I’m sure this is how Gary would like to be remembered – amongst familiar happy faces, sunshine, and yes, a little drink or two – albeit it ‘Radler’s’ (shandy) – there is a long evening of playing the Blues ahead.
In the hall it’s hard to believe this is a Monday evening. It looks like a packed house from where I stand. Later, when I look for somewhere else to stand, this observation proves leg achingly correct as I balance precariously with one foot on a balcony step, and the other hooked into the stair-rail for support. Around me are faces hypnotized by the music below. Even in the darkest corners talking during the show is at a minimum.
Everything appears to be running to clockwork, which is not how it looked two minutes into the set when Henrik discovered a pedal had decided to jam itself open on his board. Furious fiddling on hands and knees with screwdrivers etc took place amidst calls out, not for a doctor, but a Swiss Army Knife. Finally the errant pedal was ‘amputated’ from the board and, all smiles, the show must and did go on.
Although the tour is ostensibly in support of the ‘Blues for Gary’ tribute cd that’s just been released, the show does contain some surprises as Henrik had promised during my interview. The biggest surprise of all being how little of the disc is actually played live this evening. The CD has a hand-picked set of lead vocalists who are also on tour with their own bands such as Mike Andersen, Ben Poole and Linda Sutti. Harrisen Larner-Main takes on the vocals too on disc but this evening it’s “Just me!” as Henrik had said with a wink earlier in the sunshine.
Henrik’s vocals have a knock on effect for the band too. Vic Martin’s Hammond sound has graced some pretty influential music in it’s time. The Bees Gees and Boy George, not to mention the iconic Eurythmics hit ‘Sweet Dreams’ bear his trademark Church Hammond sound. surely both he and bassman Pete Rees, having been with Gary Moore from 2000’s ‘Back to the Blues’ disc can play these songs in their sleep? “Not quite”, admits Martin: Henrik sings in a different key so they have to be alert, and indeed there is constant eye contact between the band throughout the show – much of it admittedly smiles from Henrik – and I suspect from the enthusiasm concerned that much of it comes from telling each other when the song ends. Otherwise I have the feeling they would happily jam along on numbers like Emore’s ‘Sky is crying’ all night.
It’s generally a laid back set and to a great extent bookended by the two instrumental opus’ ‘The Prophet’ and ‘The Messiah Will Come Again’. Lots of numbers that Moore, like many a guitarist before and since including Henrik tonight, have in their blood and love to play. ‘Stormy Monday’ and ‘Sky is Crying’ being excellent examples. Gary Moore had, as a prized possession, a Les Paul that was to all intents and purposes given to him as a present by Peter Green (“He took the money I got from selling my old gutar as payment” Moore recalled later). Tonight Henrik gives an equisite rendition of Green’s ‘I Loved Another Woman’ that provide all the evidence needed of why Green was such an influence on both guitarists.
The band rock out lightly with Johnny ‘Guitar’ Watson’s ‘Too Tired’, a number on the disc that revitalized Moore’s career in 1990 ‘Still Got The Blues‘ when he duetted with Albert Collins. The duet tonight is less incendiary but still spellbinding as Freischlader trades phrases with Martin’s Hammond. ‘Pretty Woman’ was about as heavy as was rocked out during the evening and we even had a chance to dance the Rumba and sing along to the chorus of ‘Don’t Lie To Me’.
The moving ballads were really where Henrik was most at ease and at his best. Donny Hathaway’s ‘I Love you more than you will ever know’ was a popular number in Moore’s later shows and Henrik captures both the feeling and the magic of the song. I was hoping to hear ‘Parisenne Walkways’ but, perhaps wisely, Freischlader left the emotion instead to two instrumental gems from Moore that share much of the structure and emotion of that number, and really who could expect anyone to play an encore after a breathtakingly magical ‘The Messiah Will Come Again’? It was a reminder of the huge guitar playing talent of Gary Moore and a reminder too that Henrik Freischlader is back playing the Blues with a passion – and that is very good news for the Blues indeed!
+++ INTERVIEW WITH HENRIK COMING SOON +++