One damp Irish late afternoon in the middle of winter, Ryan, his Dad, Matthew and I set off in the VW hippie van for Castlebar. We had ordered our tickets a couple of months previous via the endlessly convenient “internet”. Castlebar is only an hour and a quarter’s drive from Roscommon, which is a great convenience compared to trudging all the way up to Dublin and doing battle with the infamous M50.
The name of the venue we were headed for is The TF Royal Theatre. It has a seated capacity of 1500 and a standing capacity of 2000. It is a Godsend for the West of Ireland in that it is attracting big acts (Tommy Tiernan, Billy Connelly, Mike Denver and Barney the Dinosaur himself) to the area.
We arrived at seven o’clock and got ourselves a good position in the queue. The doors opened and hour later and we filed in and got our tickets checked. There was a bar at the back of the hall and the stage was sparsely set with the equipment of the supporting band “Leopold”. Leopold took the stage within 15 minutes. They had a style nearly unique to that of the Red Hot Chili Peppers. I enjoyed most of their set but was preoccupied with the anticipation of the rock n’ roll legends, which would soon be taking the stage.
We were sitting near the back when the openers finished and left the stage. 20 minutes later the black sheets were swept away to reveal the wall of amps and gigantic drum kit and Thin Lizzy stormed into view and burst straight into their opening song “Jailbreak”. The volume was incredible, not enough to make your eardrums hurt but plenty to fill your mind with nothing but the music. The singer, John Sykes, commanded the stage with brilliant presence and sang with perfect justice for Phil Lynott, the long since deceased front man.
You may assume that this band – with two members aged 57 – are no longer capable of rocking out like in the old days. No longer supple enough to pull off their stage moves. Too bitter and cynical to take heed of the crowd’s gigantic enthusiasm. Well, you’d be absolutely wrong. They played better, louder and faster than most young punks and with the grace and fluency of ducks in water.
Lizzy held their momentum the whole way through the gig, going from song to song with very few pauses. They played all the hits: Dancing in The Moonlight, Don’t Believe a Word, Rosalie, The Rocker etc. and the crowd went bugnuts when they burst into Boys Are Back in Town. The band was tight and flawless and played with huge energy and enthusiasm. I spent most of the time at the front railing with Matthew absorbing the massive energy and exchanging various hand gestures with the band (Matthew will know what I’m talking about!).
The lead guitar player – Scott Gorhan –played excellently and posed as I took his picture with my mobile. The bass player, Francesco DiCosmo (session musician for Evanescence, believe it or not [possibly standing in for official bassist Marco Mendoza, in Thin Lizzy]) was dancing constantly and imitated the playing of Phil Lynott perfectly. Tommy Aldridge on drums was a maniac. For a 57 year old he moved with the urgency and wildness of a possessed super-ape! About halfway through the gig the other musicians left the stage and Tommy played a massive drum solo. Then he threw his sticks into the crowd and played another one with his bare hands! It was truly awesome.
The place was completely packed by the time Lizzy were ten minutes into their set. It was hard to move and the crowd became wilder and wilder as the night went on. Two members of the audience jumped onto the stage at different times during the gig and were promptly dealt with by the bouncers, much to our amusement. Neither was kicked out though, only hurtled back into the masses.
The band said goodbye and left the stage after an hour and a quarter, but there was no way that was going to be the end of it. The crowd yelled and screamed until they came back for another couple of songs and attempted to end the gig but not before they were called back for a second encore for which they played a medley of rocked-up traditional Irish songs!
When they left the stage for the third time we accepted that we had gotten our money’s worth and the horde slowly filtered out. After talking for a while with some other members of the audience we stumbled back to the van and drove home.