Sinnerboy recreating Rory Gallagher’s iconic 1987 Cork Opera House show, in Cork Opera House!

Ronan Leonard looks forward to Sinnerboy’s tribute to Rory Gallagher ‘LIVE in Cork’ concert
Sinnerboy recreating Rory Gallagher’s iconic 1987 Cork Opera House show, in Cork Opera House!

Sinnerboy: Ready to recreate Rory Gallagher's iconic show in Cork.

ONE of the boldest things a musician can do is perform a set entirely of one music legend’s repertoire… and even bolder still to perform one of their legendary concerts by ‘going to their home town’.

But Barry Barnes, the guitarist and frontman of Sinnerboy, is relishing the chance to recreate Rory Gallagher’s iconic Cork Opera House Show when he played there for the first time in 1987.

Recorded by RTÉ, it became a “visual bible for Gallagher’s fans” when released on VHS in 1990 and subsequently on DVD in 2009. It has held up as an iconic snapshot of Gallagher’s homecoming as the revered bluesman delivered classic tracks like Tattoo’d Lady, Follow Me, When My Baby She Left Me and Out On The Western Plain.

Sinnerboy will recreate the landmark gig, beginning with the complete track listing of the ‘LIVE In Cork’ recording and then expanding to include many other of Rory’s classics.

I always say with Sinnerboy it’s not a band AND an audience, instead it’s a group of Rory fans getting together

Barry views this concert — and all of Sinnerboy’s gigs — as different to a ‘cover band’ performing Rory’s songs,

“I always say with Sinnerboy it’s not a band AND an audience, instead it’s a group of Rory fans getting together, just some of the Rory fans happen to be on the stage and some happen to be in the audience. It’s a collective thing, we’re trying to recreate the atmosphere… no one can play like Rory, nobody ever will. It’s just a pleasure to hear those songs again live.”

Barry’s personal connection to Rory’s music is a long-standing one, “With me and Rory, it all started in 1969, I was 17. I went to buy the new Led Zeppelin album in a local record shop, but they were out of stock of the Led Zeppelin album so being a teenage boy with some money in his pocket, I had to buy something!

“So I saw On The Boards’, I liked the cover so I bought it and took it home, and I was immediately blown away, I don’t think ever bought that Led Zeppelin album after!”

Barry Barnes of Sinnerboy, who will be recreating some of Rory Gallagher’s best works.
Barry Barnes of Sinnerboy, who will be recreating some of Rory Gallagher’s best works.

Hearing his record was one thing, but Brian’s first time seeing him live was life-altering.

“In 1970, I went to see Taste play live in Free Trade Hall in Manchester. When I walked into the venue and saw the stage I was disappointed because there wasn’t loads of guitar amps, drum kits and lights like I normally saw with Rock Bands like Cream or Jimi Hendrix. All Taste had was a tiny little drum kit, a little bass amp, and Rory has a Vox Ac-30 sat on a kitchen chair. I thought to myself ‘hmmn, I’m not sure about this, it doesn’t look like it will be rocking enough”... Rory came out and plugged in his famous Fender Stratocaster and blew my brains out. It was amazing.”

It’s one thing being a music fan, but as a guitar player Brian has studied Rory’s playing for the last five decades. “He’s my biggest influence, when I was younger first I’d have been influenced by Jimi Hendrix. I saw him and the music was great but it was almost like it’s from another planet.

“But when I saw Rory it just clicked, it seemed to be where I was from, it was tough, it was bluesy. I really fell in love with it. In the way I actually play music, I used to study everything he did. I once spent two weeks trying to master how he played the solo to Walk On Hot Coals from the Live in Europe album so I could play it note for note. Then I thought to myself ‘well I’ve learned how he did it that night… but he would have done it completely differently the night after!

“Which is why he is the master, I am the pupil.”

It wasn’t just the music Rory made that drew Barry to him, but also his principles. “I loved the whole package, he was such a role model. It’s not that he was underrated, but he was underexposed, and that was down to him, he didn’t want to be a superstar and have hit singles. He was happy traipsing around the world, playing the blues. He had that integrity, it was that and his music that drew me in. Every new album he released was always my favourite! A lot of people say the stuff from the 70s is their favourite, and that’s fair enough but I think Fresh Evidence in 1990 was as good as anything else he released, I loved the direction he was going in, his solos mightn’t have had the fire of his earlier stuff, but they had so much craft to them, they each told a story… and the guitar tone he was achieving by the end of his career was unbelievable.”

Rory is the master, I am the pupil

Barry never met Rory personally, but Rory’s brother Donal Gallagher has said “here is the proof that my brother’s music lives on.”

Despite never talking to Rory, Barry saw him many times. “Every time I saw him I watched him from afar, I saw him around 20 times I think, pretty much all the time in Manchester but once or twice at festivals he played in the UK.

“There was one festival in Lincoln, in 1973, Rory was playing on the Friday night, I drove down but I was late, so I was gutted that I missed him.”

The fact they are playing a specific set makes it different to their many other appearances in Cork over the years. “This gig will be with that Cork audience in mind, it’ll be a celebration of that concert. I’ve always loved the recording of that particular gig in the Opera House. In fact, for this concert, we’re bringing over a pal of ours to play the harmonica to add the brilliant solo to Off The Handle. If you look at the video of the Cork concert, it’s been edited and it’s only one hour and 27 minutes long. Rory would never play a gig for that long, he’d barely have broken a sweat after one hour and 27 minutes!

Sinnerboy, LIVE at Cork Opera House, Friday, October 29, at 8pm.

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