Sure, I wish I’d seen Jimi Hendrix. And Duane Allman. And a handful of other guitar gods gone before my time too. But the guitarist I most regret missing, Gary Moore, probably wouldn’t make many people’s list. A native of Belfast, Northern Ireland, Moore died of a heart attack in 2011 at just 58 years of age. He toured regularly in the decades before, but mostly throughout Europe, Scandinavia and Japan, and only rarely in the United States. I know: I checked all the time.
Moore had three separate and brief stints as a guitarist in Thin Lizzy,¹ but like most people I knew him as a blues man. Beginning in 1990, and up to his stunning death, he put out 11 records, the majority of which were either straight blues albums or based broadly on the blues form. The first of those was “Still Got The Blues,” of which the title track is featured here, from a 1995 live performance in Montreaux, Switzerland.
So, why does Gary Moore top my guitarist ‘buffet of regrets’ list? Well first and most obviously, because I fully expected to catch him. Unlike Hendrix and Allman, Moore had been in my sights for 20 years, and I just always assumed that one day our schedules and locations would eventually align. More importantly though – why he’d rise to that level of admiration, even reverence, for me – was really just this: his tone. It was simply the cleanest I’ve ever heard. Plenty are similar, but I can think of only Carlos Santana and Brian May as his equal, and Joe Bonamassa as his closest current string-bending compatriot. Moore could just hit impeccable, flawless notes, and sustain them, in a way that was simultaneously piercing and pleasing, even exhilarating. They were so clean you could eat off them.
But pristine as he could play, Moore could also trash it up plenty too. After making a mid-note tuning adjustment at 4:06 in this video, he begins an 87-second soloing rampage showing off his more flamboyant fretboard pyrotechnics. Many guitarists are aces at one or the other; Moore was someone who was spectacular at both. I know this from his many extraordinary recordings, and from his plentiful mind-blowing live videos. I just never saw it in person.
¹No, he did not play on ‘The Boys Are Back In Town’
*A bonus track, ‘Walkin’ Thru The Park’ from the 2008 album “Bad For You Baby” (his last), is all gorgeous grit in overdrive, hardly a clean note to be found.