By Sean Palmerston
Without a doubt, one of the most influential rock bands to ever come from Ireland was Thin Lizzy. Best known for their mid-seventies hits like “Jailbreak” and especially “The Boys Are Back In Town,” the band has always been of interest to me personally – as most Irish hard rock and metal bands are – due to my heritage. I was surprised however when I went to Dublin for the first time and realized that Thin Lizzy is held in such great regard, much in the same way that Rush is so beloved in Canada. Of course, the level of appreciation for Thin Lizzy in their home country is completely understandable. They were one of the finest hard rock bands of the seventies, easily worthy of mention along with your Status Quos, UFOs and Scorpions as a very influential band on today’s metal scene. While all of those band have remained together pretty much constantly since, Thin Lizzy’s activity has been less sporadic since the death of de facto leader Phil Lynott of AIDS-related ailments in 1986. The band has gone on to release a few live albums and have toured with guitarists John Sykes, Scott Gorham and drummer Brian Downey all having been involved at different times, but obviously with Lynott gone the level of success has never reached the same highs.
Are You Ready? is an interesting visual document of Thin Lizzy during what is one of the lowest periods of their original run. While the band was still a good live act and a decent draw, by the time they released their Chinatown album in 1980 there were many cracks in the machine that spurred the band on. Filmed live in Loreley, Germany by WDR for their Rockpalast program, one of the coolest live music programs on the planet, this nineteen song set is good but not great. Showcasing arguably the least popular version of the band, one that featured Snowy White as co-lead guitarist, the band puts in a workmanlike set that is a great treat for diehard fans of the band but it also demonstrates why this line up in particular didn’t succeed. The main problem seems to lie in chemistry. While he is a great guitarist, Snowy White just doesn’t seem to fit in with the band. He is subdued on stage, not sharing in the same amount of energy as his band-mates, almost looking a little lost in the floodlights of the large Loreley amphitheater. Phil Lynott is also not in good health at this show, suffering from a wicked cold that effects his singing voice’s timbre and also causes him to pause a few times on stage. In one break in-between songs Lynott jokingly blames the cold on too much sex, too much booze and too much fun. While this is probably true, by this time Lynott was also using heroin on a regular basis too. He doesn’t look like a junkie at all, but I am sure that using that stuff wouldn’t have been doing his physical state any good either. Lynott, ever the trooper, never lets his ailments get him down and works through the entire set although, like I mentioned before, he doesn’t look great or sound at the top of his game.
The set itself covers a nice range of the band’s career, including classic tracks like “Rosalie,” “Suicide” and “Emerald” next to new album tracks “Genocide” and “Sugar Blues,” even going as far as to play a song off of their upcoming 1981 album Renegade in the album track “Hollywood.” It’s amazing to have this available and to be able to see it all in cleaned up digital encryption, instead of tenth generation dubbed bootleg VHS videos, but this just isn’t the same band that knocks your socks off on the Live And Dangerous DVD that came out a few years ago. This is good, that one is exceptional. Having said that, this is a welcome addition to the band’s releases and one that will definitely find a home with diehard fans of the band.