Obama wins the day, but Philo delivers the 'waaooow' factor
Fiachna Ó Braonáin's programme was a valuable reminder of Lynott's immense talent
With the crowds clamouring for him, he struck a charismatic chord when he appeared on stage. There he was, the peripatetically raised son of a black father and white mother who transcended racial boundaries to inspire millions, at the peak of triumph, transfixing those in attendance and beyond as he intoned his rousing opening lines. “Tonight there’s going to be a jailbreak . . .”
When it came to electrifying audiences, Phil Lynott had few peers. Last week the late rock star’s stage magnetism came under the spotlight in Poetic Champions Compose (Today FM, Sunday), Fiachna Ó Braonáin’s noteworthy series on classic Irish albums. The show combines pop history with personal interview, as musicians assess their favourite homegrown disc. This time out the singer-songwriter Damien Dempsey sang the praises of Live and Dangerous, the seminal 1978 concert album by Lynott’s band Thin Lizzy.
The programme jumped between Dempsey’s reminiscences and first-hand accounts of the album’s recording, with the latter element providing most of the interest. Far from being a true record of a moment in time, Live and Dangerous was taped over five or six gigs and then partially overdubbed in the studio.
The result, admitted the group’s manager Chris O’Donnell, was a “patchwork” that created “an incredible aural quilt” – not a metaphor normally associated with guitar anthems such as The Rocker or The Boys Are Back in Town.
Dempsey’s contributions were more prosaic. “I heard it and went waaooow,” was as lyrical as he got. But he was alive to the casual sexism of Lynott’s query on the album whether the females in the audience “would like a little Irish in them”. “I’d say he got some slap off his ma for saying that,” Dempsey said.
The programme was also dotted with the worthy but largely inane testimony of sundry rock stars on the album’s enduring influence. Bono proved the exception, delivering an inadvertently silly tribute that characteristically conflated truism with profundity. “It was the blueprint for a live record that would have a beginning, a middle and an end.”
Ó Braonáin capably handled his duties as host. Best known as the guitarist with Hothouse Flowers despite his increasing forays into broadcasting, he came across as likeable and engaged by his musical subject matter, no matter that his own band’s output does not feature in too many lists of timeless Irish albums. And although it sounded padded out at times, Ó Braonáin’s programme was a valuable reminder of Lynott’s immense talent, often obscured by the tragic circumstances of his death.
Otherwise there was little escaping the man of the moment. Barack Obama’s re-election to the US presidency dominated the week’s airwaves, with news reporters and talkshow hosts alike decamping across the Atlantic.