I was a bit reluctant as to what to post next since life has been chaotic this summer (and I don’t think this coming rough winter will look any better), so I decided to do another Thin Lizzy review to take my mind off shit!
It’s been a busy year for the TL organization what with touring and re-releasing albums for the next generation of rock enthusiasts. Scott Gorham (the de facto leader) has cracked his businessman’s whip mightily and threw open the old flightcases clearing away the cobwebs and panties to serve up some Lizzy goodies previously seen only on You Tube (especially for NA fans). The deluxe editions of Nightlife and Fighting were great, but I favor Fighting as it has better liner note contents and pics. Also on my list is another up-and-coming TL book co-authored by Scott and music journalist Harry Doherty this November by Omnibus Press (they also published Putterford’s biography). Before I get stuck into this I’d like to thank ThinLizzyFanpage and Blacksabfan (amongst other dedicated fans) who originally put up the video clips featured on this DVD.
Live at the National Stadium is actually a collection of European TV Thin Lizzy specials spanning 1976-83. The videos are fully restored (or as restored as they could be with our current technology) with 5.1 surround and the clever animated title menu used the Still in Love With You performance in the Johnny The Fox sleeve art motif (I hope Fitzpatrick got his royalties). The two documentaries and TV concert run just about an hour each, and the bonus features which are from RTE music show (so obscure virtually nothing comes up on the Google radar) 6/5 Live and the promo video Old Town, a track from Phil’s second solo album. While there’s multi-language subtitles (English, French, German, Italian, Brazilian Portuguese, and European Spanish), you’re shit out of luck on the lyrics. Also good to note that there are chapters laid out like a setlist for the TV concert.
Thin Lizzy’s appearance on On Stage at the Stadium was packaged in 1976 and broadcast in two 30-minute blocks, on January 21 and July 12. But lucky us we get the whole she-fucking-bang that includes guitar tuning, everyone high and/or drunk off their tits, Phil’s bass fucking up during Suicide, and just before Rosalie Scott had to pseudo-banter because Big Charlie had to come out and tweak Phil’s gear. The campiest bit was during Downey’s showcase of Sha-La-La where Phil donned a wolfman mask, collapsed, and had to be drug off stage à la Elvis by Big Charlie (also in a wolfman mask). The strobe lights in the drum riser were 70s high-tech fun, but the roadies fucked up on the smoke machine cue when they started to pump arbitrarily between For Those Who Love To Live and Showdown. Another interesting tidbit (especially for those with a soft spot for the Brians) you can’t help but notice that Scott gets a lot of face time when the camera isn’t panning on Phil. This phenomena was also apparent on Lizzy’s first TOTP spot miming Wild One (there are two takes, but the one widely seen is on their Greatest Hits DVD). One of the big problems Thin Lizzy suffers from is that their sound on CD (or vynl back in the day) can’t capture what they put out on stage. I know Robbo hated playing the “old stuff” (pre-Jailbreak and from what some say truly got him fired for), but when you see the attitude, charisma, rawness, and power even in these early performances where the kids had to be subdued by security these are unique individuals doing something that had quite the ripple effect in pop culture. I like the young Lizzy, rough and unshaven using Fairy washing-up soap for shampoo with everything to prove, and nothing to lose.
But by 1982 all the swashbuckling was turning to self-parody, the Renegade album failed, and the tour was a disaster where the after show party was becoming more important than the show. Phil was a smart PR guy and he knew he had to rev up public interest so he consented for RTE to produce the short rockumentary Renegade: The Philip Lynott Story. It was shot between London and Ireland over six weeks that was staged as a friendly afternoon tea between presenter David Heffernan and Phil, Lynott entourage member and Irish blues musician Brush Sheils, Brian Downey, Scott Gorham, and Darren Wharton. This is the first in-depth look at Lizzy’s formation, influences, and some of Phil’s background in Dublin. It includes promo videos Waiting For an Alibi, King’s Call, and Killer On The Loose; an impromptu jam session in Phil’s Kew Road studio/garage (and the last time Snowy White is seen with the band); a gig on one of Phil’s solo band tours at St. Francis Xavier Hall in Dublin, and a performance of Are You Ready at the ’78 Australia festival tour featuring Mark Nauseef and Gary Moore. It was a sweetly whitewashed affair, and whether or not it was Phil’s stellar showmanship but any evidence of marital and professional problems he had simply didn’t exist. In fact Phil quipped, “No girlfriends of mine. Got the wife here.” It’s a bit like a Chinese lunch special, you pay the $6 but you feel like you ate $4.50 worth of food. If they went the distance for 90 minutes, and did away with the promos, musical montages, and that awful Yellow Pearl TOTP intro it would seem less like a commercial. What also was so obvious was the palpable anxiousness of giving something away (with the exception of Downey). Phil didn’t look so hot during the jam, despite his asthma, he was a chain smoker, and he sounded very congested. But heroin can do that as well.
In 1983 Thin Lizzy was ready to call it a day, and with John Sykes taking to the right side of the stage, a silver record under their belts with Thunder and Lightning #4 in the UK charts, they were going out in style. RTE and David Heffernan were re-enlisted to produce another rockumentary on the demise of a long-standing touring band featuring, not so much Thin Lizzy, but their treasured road crew. The Sun Goes Down was filmed during one of their final Belfast gigs and their final two gigs at the Royal Dublin Society (RDS), and although there was mixed feelings of both relief and sadness at Lizzy’s imminent split, no one thought it would be permanent. The band resumed the devil-may-care attitude that shot them to stardom in order to die in a blaze of glory. Darren Wharton was still that cherubic Manchester innocent that joined up at 18, John Sykes stayed cool as a cucumber in his little Van Halen-esque bubble, and Scott hammed it up for the camera. Isn’t it cool that it’s a requirement to show up for work drunk and stoned? The entire balls-out storming gig was edited to span the track Cold Sweat, and closed with The Sun Goes Down from one of the RDS shows (I think this is the second show that was used for the Thunder and Lightning concert video. Phil’s voice was shot to hell as he turned up early, got drunk and high, and the rest is history). I know there were a few negative comments on YT with fans getting frustrated that TL wasn’t on camera until the end, but I don’t believe that the band had anything new to add on the matter, without divulging their addiction problems.
The final three treats are two performances on RTE’s 6/5 Live and The Philip Lynott Album’s promo video Old Town. The Founding and Lost Lizzy lineups mimed Are You Ready and Whiskey in the Jar, but Phil’s vocals were live. It was 1980/81 and Lost Lizzy were crackin’ with Snowy joining in on the fun throwing shapes and taking part in the macho goodness. Phil pulled faces at the camera and stuck his tongue out at Scott who was wearing the show’s black muscle shirt. Eric Bell was kind enough to join Phil and Brian for Whiskey seemingly picking up where they left off. Old Town was an old fashioned ballad starring Irish actress Fionna McKenna as The Girl and immortalized the Ha’Penny Bridge into the annals of rock. It was filmed over two days and Phil was completely in his element mooching and flirting on Grafton Street (where he took a cute chick for a turn), but the scene in the Dublin bar (where he had his aperitif of double brandies) had him looking bloated and weary.
Regardless, it was a fine way to wrap up this DVD of Thin Lizzy specials. Buy it for the On Stage gig and try not to get too frustrated at the bits that do tend to drag.