Who rates as Ireland’s best-yet rock band — especially live? Surprise, U2 fans: it’s not a closed case. In their mid-70s heyday, fellow Dubliners Thin Lizzy were killing it worldwide before Bono & Co. had convened in high school. Although never breaking big stateside, the beloved Irish hard rockers were nonetheless a hot ticket. No studio album ever matched their exhilarating onstage mix of double-barreled Celtic guitar scorch and co-founder Brian Downey’s bracing drums, setting off the tough poetic bravado of their late bass-wielding frontman Phil Lynott. Lizzy’s 1978 Live and Dangerous double-album was welcomed as trump-card proof. Even with dispute over how much was overdubbed (producer Tony Visconti now estimates 75%), it’s still hailed as one of rock’s top in-concert documents.
Although problematic, this just-released official recording bolsters TL’s rep. Its stated origin is a forgotten tape dating from the band’s October 1977 two-night-stand at Upper Darby, PA’s Tower Theater — and this time, promise, no overdubs, just the “raw, unadulterated, untouched” truth. Except … it’s not an as-it-happened presentation, something Lizzy devotees have noted in comparing its song order with Lynott’s carefully chosen period setlists. These include one from a long-circulating bootleg of the entire 17-track 10-20-77 Tower show — precisely the gig claimed as the CD’s sole source, also debatable — which was originally broadcast on radio’s King Biscuit Flower Hour (now heard legally streaming on-line).
What’s worse, this new CD offers only 10 songs, with two more available as bonus downloads, justifying charges of holding back. But what’s best: any live Lizzy from this era is ace; even a few previously unreleased perfs are a godsend. And the power-surging transition using the last note of their cinematically thrilling “Cowboy Song” as the first note of their hearty “The Boys Are Back In Town” (TL’s lone U.S. hit; admittedly inspired by Springsteen’s “Kitty’s Back”) arguably remains the finest live segue in the annals of recorded rock.