Review by Damien Doherty for MPM
There’s mixed emotions all around at The Button Factory tonight. Originating from a promise Smiley Bolger made to Phil to “do a vibe for me sometime”, as has now become customary all have congregated tonight the 4th January to remember the anniversary of Phil Lynotts death through music, poetry, and pints! But this is the last one, the final Vibe for Philo, billed as number 36+, 37 years since he sadly passed away leaving a void in Irish Rock that could never be filled.
Unsurprisingly the Vibe is a sell out, frantic calls for spare tickets have been posted over the recent weeks from fans unlucky enough not to have snapped them up in time, but who have come along to Dublin regardless, a pilgrimage to remember their hero. Little is yet known of the line-up tonight so rumours abound; has anyone been spotted in town, has anyone hinted on their socials? Saviour of the Horslips set at the NI Music Prize awards in the Ulster Hall, drummer and 36-time Vibe attendee Myles Lally, has been spotted in the balcony, did he bring his sticks😉. At one point Ricky Warwick’s name is innocently spoken, but there’s suddenly a wave of interest, his name being repeated through those gathered.
Organizer Roddie Cleere takes the stage, and gives a rousing speech thanking all the crew and asking everyone to “Raise the bloody roof” in thanks to Smiley “Mr. Vibe” Bolger for overseeing the Vibe for the past 36 years. Smiley unfortunately is too ill to attend this year, and Roddie and his crew are steadfastly steering the ship in his stead.
We are asked to remember Philomena, who every year would give the “Queens address” to the assembled audience. Smileys right hand man over the years Hugo McGuinness accepts a framed poster for this year’s Vibe from artist Conall McCabe and a lifetime achievement award from Button Factory Owner Paddy Dunning on Smileys behalf.
A special mention is given to the winner of the inaugural award winner Pat Maguire, who is also unwell this year, and wishes sent for his speedy recovery.
There’s 3 cheers for Philomena, Phil, and Smiley from the masses, before Hugo makes a short speech, informing us that this was the vibe where Smiley had wanted to experience from the audience rather than from backstage, but which can now sadly not come to pass.
First to take the stage are Vibe stalwarts Brian Grace, Jimmy Coup, and Phil Edgar, performing a stripped down set commencing with a “musical prayer” Dear Lord from the Bad Reputation album, then She Knows. Pete Jordan joins on bass for Little Girl in Bloom then the lads do a killer version of Borderline, a song enjoying a resurgence thanks to James Hetfield’s recent acoustic performance from LA.
Old Town has everyone singing before next guest Keith Brogan appears for Dublin and Philomena. Final guest for the first act of tonight’s performance is Derek Dempsey all the way from the US for the show. Brian and Derek played together in Dublin band The Elite and reunite for Wild One, Still in Love With You and finally Sarah. All in all, it’s a fantastic and relaxed start to the night.
Peoples poet John Cummins is up next with his fantastic poetic dedication to Phil, I’ve heard it a few times but it always makes the hairs stand on the back of my neck; “Philo was a fellow fíle, who did Dub rhymed”.
Exit John and who rocks up but Eric Bell who blasts into Shake Your Money Maker, I Can Tell, and Hoochie Coochie Man. He sounds fantastic, loud hard rockin virtuosic blues, the man still has it! Brian Grace is back on stage on bass this time, and the lads blast Ray Gun and Look What the Wind Blew In. Then out of the wings appears the man who makes your hands clap and your toes tap, it’s only Brian Downey ladies and gentlemen! Whiskey in the Jar and The Rocker are the perfect pairing to round off this set from the guys who started it all!
Final Act for tonight are the “Hoodoo Rhythm Devils”, consisting of John Conlon from Thin AZ Lizzy, Phil Edgar, Eddie G, and ……. Brian Grace, the stamina of this man, he’s barely left the stage all night and is showing no signs of flagging, and this set ups the intensity once again. Jailbreak, Emerald and Rosalie are rocked out before Derek Dempsey joins once more for Southbound and Dancing in The Moonlight.
Derek departs and in enters H from eminent Lizzy tribute Dizzy Lizzy and the whole venue is jumping for Massacre before the tempo drops and everyone sings a heartfelt accompaniment to Still in Love with You, it’s definitely an emotional moment. Brian and Phil peel off their respective solos effortlessly and then there’s that twin guitar harmony to close, perfectly executed!
With John back on vocals we are treated to all the crowd pleasers, with a few surprises thrown in for good measure, one of those being Romeo and the Lonely Girl. Got to Give It Up is sung as earnestly as Phil ever did, then 2 of my top 3 favourite songs Waiting for an Alibi, and Cowboy Song, and again the guitar slingers are on fire.
And no Lizzy show would be complete without The Boys Are Back in Town, the entire audience kicking up a notch and holding that fervor for Don’t Believe a Word. Showdown has everyone in a mellow mood, before Johnny picks up the pace again. It’s Only Money, and Suicide provide grooving bookmarks to Renegades rocker Hollywood, and then we are treated to Bad Reputation with a thunderous drum Solo from Eddie G.
Penultimate song is the superlative and underappreciated Baby Please Don’t Go from the Thunder and Lightning album, and then what better song to round up the night, it’s that other favourite of mine Roisin Dubh (Black Rose).
Then it’s all over, sort of! Roddie has announced that Paddy Dunning has invited everyone to stay on and enjoy the remainder of their evening in his splendid venue. Upstairs in the bar it’s time to unwind and rub shoulders with bands, organizing crew, and fellow devotees.
Talk inevitably turns to next year, the official Vibe may have taken its final curtain call, but undoubtedly ideas are forming and plans will be soon afoot for next January 4th. Smiley, Roddie, Hugo, and everyone else involved over the last 37 years take a bow, you should be proud of what you have all done to keep alive the memory of Philip, the Rocker.