There’s something mean and misshapen about Gary Moore, both physically and musically. With a scarred face (apparently the result of a pint glass rammed in his face at an early age) and a meaty physique that seems too big for his bones, the guitar legend, who plays his first gigs here in 20 years this month, is not the prettiest showman out there. Also, his career has a jittery, unsettled quality, zigzagging between rock, heavy-metal, jazz fusion, blues and even punk, with a variety of collaborations and solo efforts.
But the good thing about having a long career is that a lot of the confusing ephemera get lost or forgotten along the way, allowing a distinctive musical personality to emerge and in the case of Moore, the end product is a thing of beauty.
Born in Belfast in 1952, Moore was on the younger end of that great generation of British rock guitarists, including Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page, Jeff Beck and Peter Green, who were heavily influenced by the blues. Green, guitarist with Fleetwood Mac before having a famous mental breakdown in the early 1970s, was something of a mentor to Moore, encountering the then-teenage prodigy in Dublin rock group Skid Row, an outfit that briefly included Phil Lynott. Lynott went on to lead Thin Lizzy, Ireland’s most famous musical export before U2, and a band that Moore sporadically played in.
In addition to his stints with Lizzy, Moore also served in jazz fusionists Colosseum II, briefly filled Eric Clapton’s shoes with the other two thirds of Cream, Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker, in BBM, and frequently dabbled in heavy metal. In recent years, however, straight rock and blues have come to the fore, with Moore mixing driving rock numbers with more lugubrious blues tunes. The latter especially allow him to counterpoint his soulful voice with emotionally wrought guitar solos.
Gary Moore plays Shibuya Ax in Tokyo on April 22; ZEPP Nagoya on April 23; Grand Cube in Osaka on April 26; JCB Hall in Tokyo on April 27; and Tokyo International Forum on April 28. Ticket prices vary. For details, visit www.udo.jp/Artist/GaryMoore/index.html