The story of the Horslips comeback is a great rock’n’roll tale. Horslips went their separate ways in 1980 – 10 years together as a band was a long time in those days and it was time for the various members to move on and do other things with their lives – drummer Eamon Carr became a successful journalist and ran a record label, bass player Barry Devlin, a music producer, screen writer and director, organist Jim Lockhart became head producer at Ireland’s national radio station, while fiddler Charles O’Connor became an antique dealer in his native England. Guitar play Johnny Fean was the sole member to keep slugging away treading the boards.
The legend of Horslips in many ways faded in the 80s and 90s and the band were forgotten by all but a few diehard fans – it didn’t help that the band – one of the most independent minded bands of the ‘70s had lost control of their catalog and then disassociated themselves with the shoddy LP and CD reissues of their back catalog. Eventually after many years of court battles the band were able to get control of their music again.
2004 saw a exhibition of Horslips memorabilia in Derry, Ireland put together by some uber-fans; posters, flyers, velvet loon pants, mustaches and Barry’s legendary shamrock bass. The band of course attended and but happiness of seeing each other in the same room other than a court room quick turned to fear when they released they would be expected to actually play something – they did oblige and a short acoustic set was performed to a small audience, none of whom expected to see Horslips ever play together again.
That brief set lead to an acoustic album of Horslips favorites – Roll Back – in 2004 and finally in December 2009 something that I don’t think anyone ever really imagined would ever happen again, Horslips playing live again for real.
Live at the O2 documents one of the two December gigs (the other gig was in Belfast)- the O2 in Dublin is by far Ireland’s largest venue and the 10,000 capacity arena was filled to capacity and the two disk live album captures the excitement and enthusiasm of a fan base who had waited an awful long time……
Haven’t heard Horslips, Live at the O2 is the place to start – you get 29 of their best tracks played by a band that is feeding off the enthusiasm of an audience that would put Bieber fever to shame and all with top notch 21st century production and recording. Sure they are an unashamedly 70s rock band and at times unashamedly prog rock but that are also the original masters of Celtic rock and at the O2 there is no doubt that they are still the masters of Celtic rock as the shook the very foundations of the O2. And to quote Phil Chervon of the Pogues, Dearg Doom is still “the greatest Irish rock song of all time”, nuff said.