Venue: The Olympia Theatre - Dublin
The main and final act, made up of Brian Downey, star drummer with Thin Lizzy, ace guitarist Brian Robertson, Def Leppard's Rick Savage, Paul Quinn (No Sweat) and Derek Dempsey (The Elite) rocked a full house, groaning with ageing hippies and rockers, glad to be there.
"It's a night for memories. We were very close and it's good to see so many people remember him. Thin Lizzy paved the way for a lot of Irish rock bands and Phil deserves the recognition," said former Lizzy guitarist Eric Bell.
It is a tribute to Phil Lynott that so many made the journey to pay their respects at the Olympia, Dublin at the beginning of January. In addition to the regular Friday night crowd, people came from as far as Sweden without tickets hoping to get into the gig. Sadly some failed. It was quite chaotic outside the theatre at 11 o'clock. The early evening performance of West Side Story had just finished and the crowd leaving met those queuing up to get in with people spilling out onto the busy road. There was confusion over which queue was for those without tickets (although the gig had officially sold out there were some tickets for the gods only, on sale on the night), after a time the decision apparently being changed or mis-communicated causing a mad scramble for places in the new queue. Add to this the worst weekend for weather this winter causing havoc for those travelling from outside Ireland and you will appreciate the dedication of the fans who packed the Olympia on the night.
It is a shame that the Vibe for Philo got a lot of coverage after the event for some of the wrong reasons. A lot was written about what should have been presented with very little said about what actually happened on the night. Hopefully this account will redress the balance. Smiley put on a show to cater for all tastes, a mixture of covers and tributes, songs old and new sandwiched between Clann Eadair's opening lament and jam involving Bell, Robertson and Downey at the end. In a masterstroke of presentation, slides of Phil and Thin Lizzy from the Lynott family's own collection were projected onto a screen above the stage to great effect throughout the concert. Later on this would produce some poignant moments such as when a slide of Phil and his daughter appeared during the Blue Angels rendition of Sarah
At midnight the restless crowd was settling in its seats as the lights dimmed and the haunting tones of Smiley's tribute track Remembering Part III, wafted from the speakers. Cheers went up from the crowd as a series of shots of Thin Lizzy flashed on the screen building to the climax. The stage lights went up and the strains of the lament from The Brandan Voyage emanated from a lone uileann piper. This had been played by the same piper from Clann Eadair, Leo Rickard at the grave side five years earlier and was followed by a couple of jigs and reels from the full band. Many people half expected a Tribute to Sandy Denny, a song Clann Eadair recorded with Phil Lynott in 1984 and also played at his funeral, but this was not to be.
Amongst the early acts were a young band called Lír whose performances of Diddy Levine and Ray Gun were in sharp contrast to some of the covers of better known tracks performed by those who followed. It was nice to hear them pick tracks that suited their own mellow style. Peter Hollidai who used to be in The Radiators From Space then played an acoustic version of Dublin followed by a rap band IRS whose set served no useful purpose. It is difficult to understand their inclusion as their set had no relevance to the business in hand. Maybe if they had taken the trouble to produce a rap version of a Lynott song they would have received a better reception.
The Elite's note perfect renditions of Black Rose and Chinatown left some people cold, probably because there was nothing of themselves added to the songs leaving their performance to be measured against the original recordings. But judging from the audience's reaction they were probably the most popular band of the night. The crowd certainly came alive at this point and this caused problems later on because the momentum of the night dropped again causing restlessness during some of the quieter moments. These quiet moments included the reading of some of Phil's lyrics by Smiley and Terry O'Neill, a poem by a friend called Rosie and a raffle drawn by Phil's mother. Also between acts several tracks from Phil's unfinished and unreleased third album were played.
Brush Shiels arrived onstage looking very cool and relaxed in his long trench coat which he casually laid aside before donning his guitar to sing unaccompanied. His professionally presented set included two tribute songs to Phil Lynott: Old Pal and You're Still Around. Immediately following the Brush were many people's favourites among the support acts - The Blue Angels. Their laid-back Velvet Underground approach to Dancing in the Moonlight showed how good Phil Lynott's songs really were (and indeed are). They actually work outside the standard hard-rock milieu, and stand up as damn good songs in any style. There's unfortunately not many writers of whom that can be said.
The main event of the evening was something else: combinations of Eric Bell, Brian Robertson, Def Leppard's Rick Savage, Derek Dempsey from The Elite, No Sweat's Paul Quinn and Joe LaHart from The Mary Stokes Band together with Brian Downey fresh from his Talk to Strangers gig up the road playing some of the old Lizzy classics. They had been rehearsing for two days but on the night the equipment let them down - all the monitors quit on them - however they played on. The intro to The Cowboy Song went a bit astray and towards the end Derek lost track of the lyrics and just repeated the same line over and over. For Still in Love With You Paul Quinn stepped up to the microphone but was so overcome that he could not go ahead with the song. Audience participation was called for but the song being rather a plodder meant it was difficult for everyone to keep up the right tempo. Brian Robertson threw in a few lines to keep everyone on the right track. Don't believe a word was played at a cracking pace - it was perhaps the ultimate two minute single - and then Eric Bell took the stage. Smiley had managed to persuade Eric to go back on his threat to never play Whiskey in the Jar again. It is impossible to describe the atmosphere to someone who wasn't there but if you imagine the whole audience up and boogying to The Rocker.
Phil's mother gave a brief thank-you speech and was presented with a bouquet of flowers. She had spent the evening with the fans, signing autographs outside before the gig and sitting in the audience during it. She brought on stage Big Charlie, Lizzy's long-standing roadie, and Percy (c.f. Clifton Grange Hotel on the first album). To close, way after it was supposed to, the band jammed their way through a couple of old blues chestnuts which left the audience wanting for more.
There was much debate in the press and on TV for the next few days about the gig and Smiley came in for some unwarranted criticism. The worst that can be said is that the gig was over-ambitious in what it tried to do in a limited time. The crew did not gain access to the venue until the same time as the audience were filing in so it was a miracle of organisation that so many acts played with relatively few hitches. The choice of material with one or two exceptions was balanced although it would be impossible to please everyone. Certainly many wanted much more of the main band - something that will have been partly satisfied by the Evening With Thin Lizzy tour spawned by Smiley's gig. Whatever happens book early for next year's event. Maybe to satisfy everyone we need a week-long remembrance rather than one evening. Now there's an idea, Smiley! Smiley?
There is currently no gallery for the 5th 'A Vibe for Philo' Vibe, but images may be updated soon.