Rewriting Rory #15 - Out Today! Rory Gallagher - All Around Man, Live in London

Ever since Daniel Gallagher casually mentioned in an interview with Hot Press last October that he was planning to release a 1990 Rory live album, we have been impatiently counting down the days on our calendar. But now the wait is no more and today Rory Gallagher – All Around Man, Live in London is finally released.

Recorded at London’s Town and Country Club over two nights on 28 and 29 December 1990, All Around Man captures Rory and his band on mighty form. 1990 was a challenging year for Rory, with increasing physical and mental health problems leading him to cancel a string of dates across the summer. However, listening to the teasers released to date – ‘Continental Op’‘Heaven’s Gate’ and 'Moonchild' – you never could tell. Here, we are witness to a masterclass in musicianship, with Rory as a dynamo who delivers an intense and emotional performance, feeling every single note he plays and every single word he sings. So far all three tracks combined have totalled close to 200,000 listens on Spotify, with both fans and journalists praising the high musicianship of Rory on the album.

The track list for All Around Man mainly features material from Rory’s final (and critically lauded) album Fresh Evidence. Rory delivers a very solid and lively rendition of “Kid Gloves” on Side 1. Our senses are further enticed by “Mean Disposition”, with Mark Feltham’s harp and Rory’s slide technique intensifying the sensual mood. Other standouts from the band are the instrumental “The Loop” and “King of Zydeco”, the latter dedicated to the musician Clifton Chenier. Side 2 includes two compositions from Fresh Evidence, including the bluesy “Middle Name”. In “Ghost Blues”, Rory skilfully directs the band to build the narrative, from the electrifying slide passages, to quiet interludes with only his voice to convey the emotion of “came home this morning, found her crying by the door. 

Rory onstage, 1990
Photograph by Bob Hewitt

Songs off the 1987 album Defender also feature heavily in the set list, beginning with the opener “Continental Op”, which highly impressed Matt Parker of Guitar World in a review from May: “The energy the late great Stratocaster master is channelling in the recording is remarkable […] [Rory plays] some electrifying slide work [and] his tone is stunning.” On Side 1, Rory displays fiery soloing and gritty vocalisations to expertly tackle the Sonny Boy Williamson classic “Don’t Start Me Talkin’”. 

As always, the live album consists of a number of fan-favourites from Rory’s catalogue, such as his version of Muddy Waters’ “I Wonder Who”. Similarly to “Ghost Blues”, Rory sculpts the atmosphere with light and shade, soft and loud, embodying the story with every element of sound (voice, guitar, harp, piano). Also on Side 2, Rory treats the audience to sharp and explosive rock n roll soloing on both “Shadow Play” and “Shin Kicker”. Rory begins his acoustic set with Leadbelly’s “Out On The Western Plain”, the interplay between the guitarist and crowd always a spine-chilling moment to listen to. Meanwhile, tracks such as “Ride On Red, Ride On” and “Walkin’ Blues” demonstrate the strong musical connection between Mark and Rory. “Empire State Express” closes the first side of the album, the accompanying slide on the National and Rory’s scatting towards the end creating a primitive and earthy feel to the Son House track. 

Rory onstage, 1990
Photograph by Bob Hewitt

Rory displays thrilling passion during his solo for the start of the encore – “Messin With The Kid”. The band effortlessly transitions to Little Richard’s “Keep A Knockin’”, with a standout piano solo from Geraint Watkins, followed up with the infectiously up-tempo “Bullfrog Blues”. Rory maintains this high level of energy for the album closer – “All Around Man” – stepping away from the lulling bluesy-ness of his 1970s cover of this song, and instead going for a ZZ Top flavour. 


Journalist Nigel Summerley was in the audience at Rory’s first show and wrote a rave review for the Evening Standard that sums up the cosmic, quasi-spiritual journey of seeing Rory live. Summerley references the “blue flashy thing” in the new Star Trek series that “sends the Enterprise from here to beyond eternity” and claims that it must be in Rory’s possession because of his ability to send the audience into “rhythmic hyperspace” with his “fierce grooves.” He lauds the way that Rory works his guitar, turning the blues into his “own special monster” as he constantly drives forward. Summerley reserves special praise for Mark Feltham who he sees as a “faultless foil” to Rory and singles out the material from Fresh Evidence for its “keener edge” which promises that “the best of Gallagher is perhaps yet to come” – indeed something that we often argue ourselves on Rewriting Rory.

"Always A-Number One to Us"

A fan review of the concert by Tom Mitchell of Barnstaple can be found in Issue No. 46 of the Rory fanzine Fresh Evidence. We share it in full below because it truly captures the excitement and immediacy of having just witnessed Rory in action:

Once again, it’s my privilege to write a report on one of Rory’s concerts. I had not seen Rory live since Cardiff St David’s Hall on December 12, 1988, two years ago, so I was looking forward to this concert.

Myself and two members of my family and a friend arrived at the venue in good time. The doors opened around 7.15pm and early comers filed in. The familiar Marshall and Vox AC30 set up on stage gave one visual confirmation of Rory’s presence and a quickening to the pulse of excitements to come. Also in evidence were the new (specially designed for acoustic guitars) amplifiers, sat centre stage quietly waiting.

We found a good vantage point on an elevated area to the rear and prepared for a wait prior to Rory’s appearance. An acoustic player, one John Fiddler of Medicine Head, came on solo to fill the support slot and keep the crowd  pacified until Rory appeared himself. One always feels sympathy for the artists filling support roles and doing so before Rory must be a double honour for them. He did his best to entertain the crowd and did manage to generate a bit of reaction towards the end of his stint.

The clock ticked on towards 9.00pm. The amps waiting patiently in darkness were now powered up by Rory’s crew and glowed obediently, little beacons of light signalling to us not long now.

The venue was now rapidly filling to capacity both up and downstairs as to cheers Gerry and Brendam took up their positions. A short pause and on came Rory at the double to enthusiastic cheers and shouts. After the usual welcoming preliminaries, it was down to business at hand. The by now familiar opening intro and driving riff of Continental Op suddenly filled the theatre and we were off.

Rory on stage, 1990
Photograph by Bob Hewitt

Rory looked noticeably slimmer since I last saw him, and he looked the better for it. Song order was (1) Continental Op, (2) Heaven’s Gate (Fresh E), (3) Don’t Start Me Talking (4) Mean Disposition with Geraint Watkins on accordion adding, I think, a new sound and extra dimension to Rory’s music on this occasion, (5) The Loop, catchy instrumental, time at 9.25pm, (6) Kid Gloves, another great track from Fresh Evidence, (7) The loved Rory standard Tattoo’d Lady evocative of fairgrounds led us into (8) King of Zydeco, again with accordion accompaniment in cajun/zydeco style, a tribute to Clifton Chenier who died not long ago. This ended the electric set at 9.35pm.

Now the acoustic set employing the new acoustic amp. The expected by now standard number (9) Out on the Western Plain, still appreciated and with the usual audience participation enjoyed by all, followed by (10) Ride on Red on a cutaway guitar, the new combo sounding good. These two songs comprised the acoustic section, time at 10,00pm.

Second electric set commenced with (11) Shadow Play, (12) I Wonder Who (with very hot keyboards  by Geraint, (13) Ghost Blues (with a Telecaster), (14) C.C. Mama [Shinkicker], (15) Middle Name, (16) My Baby She Left Me (guitar lead failure on last phrases, muted guitar but did not phase Rory). Band call and leaves stage at 10.25pm.

First encore (17) Bullfrog Blues with a red guitar and usual drum and bass solo spots from Brendan and Gerry, (18) up tempo All Around Man (great drawn out solo guitar ending). Second encore Messin’ with the Kid, James Brown getting in on the act, “I Feel so good, so good, I got you etc.” freely inserted into the closing song extending the number with audience responses sung with gusto, ending the concert at 10.45pm. One and three quarter hours of great joy for all concerned. Rory’s last album Fresh Evidence featured strongly, along with Rory classics. The recent album shows another facet of Rory’s talent and versatility without compromising his blues roots.

Rory is in great form, lively, moving well, leaping well high on occasion, in great voice, great screams in true old bluesman style. 

Rory on stage, 1990
Photograph by Bob Hewitt

I managed to meet Rory afterwards for a quick word. I met a group of German fans who had come over especially to see him, namely Detlef Neveling, Ronnie De Cramer and several others with their wives and we enjoyed talking Rory matters etc. Also two French students from near Dunkirk who got their prized autographs and handshake and were thrilled to meet Rory in person. And why not? After all, he is greatest living rock/blues guitarist.

Myself and family congratulated Rory on his evening’s work. He mentioned overseas tours were his next most likely direction. He looked fitted and leaner. I implored him not to work too hard. We all care about his health and wellbeing and look forward to the vintage years (musically) being long and enjoyable for all. May I say from all your appreciative fans, you’ll always be the A number one to us.

Rory onstage, 1990
Photograph by Bob Hewitt


With the 1970s well represented in recent live releases (Check Shirt Wizard, Cleveland Calling Parts 1 and 2, Live in San Diego, BBC in Concert), an official release of a live album from the latter period of Rory’s career has been long overdue. We hope that All Around Man marks the start of many more to come as it is only by introducing fans – old and new – to Rory’s later material that they can see that he never lost his ability as a performer and always delivered, regardless of personal challenges offstage.

Rory Gallagher – All Around Man, Live in London is out now and available in the following formats:

Double CD

Triple LP

Rory at the Town & Country Club, 1990
Photograph by Annelies Vink