A Review of the Fender 50th Anniversary Concert -
A Tribute to Rory Gallagher

by Dino McGartland.

As part of Fender's 50th birthday celebrations, a special tribute concert was organised at the Wembley Conference Centre, London on Saturday 30th November '96. The concert was dedicated to Rory Gallagher and artists taking part included: Peter Green and the Splinter Group, Yngwie Malmsteen, Jack Bruce, Hank Marvin, The Hellecasters, Martyn Joseph and the Fender Houseband featuring Neil Murray, Cozy Powell, Spike Edney and Jamie Moses. I had flown over from Ireland with my wife and was really looking forward to seeing some of these guys play.

First up was Martyn Joseph, a singer /songwriter who, I must admit, was unknown to me. He first appeared on the scene around 1992 with a single called 'Dolphins Make Me Cry'. I have always admired anyone who can go onstage with just an acoustic guitar and grab the attention of several thousand people which is exactly what he did. I'll be watching out for Martyn in the future. Yngwie Malmsteen, I had heard about and I was aware that this Swedish guitar virtuoso had a style which combined the techniques of Blackmore and Hendrix. Yngwie was one of Fender's original Signature Model endorsees in 1986. At Wembley, he played almost every rock lick in the book and went through numerous poses. Though excellent at what he did, it was not quite to my personal taste.

The Hellecasters were up next and proceeded to astound everyone with their virtuoso brand of outrageous guitar playing. Members, John Jorgenson, Will Ray and Jerry Donahue went through a set that had guitar fans nodding in disbelief as the band displayed styles incorporating rock influenced hamonies, whammy bar and quick pickin' tricks as well as some serious bending techniques!!

The biggest cheer of the night however was reserved for Hank Marvin who joined the Hellecasters on stage for a few Shadow's classics. The man who started it all, who was the first person in the UK to play a Stratocaster, smiled throughout his short stint on stage and really seemed to enjoy it all.

Peter Green was next, shuffling on to the stage to cries of "We love you Peter!". We were privileged to be in the same room as this guitar God. Accompanied on guitar by Nigel Watson, this was his first appearance in London in over twenty years. Using a Stratocaster, Green played a set of classics.. including 'Black Magic Woman' and 'Albatross'. It was quite obvious from his playing that he had been learning all over again; at times reluctant to take a solo and passing the honours to Nigel Watson. Nevertheless, each and every person in the audience was behind him all the way; willing him on; wanting him to play in his own soulful way.

Donal Gallagher came on stage next to thank everyone for attending the event. In his short address, he said "Normally when I come to the mic, it is to announce Rory and the band on stage - Rory IS with us here tonight". A surprise in the form of a Fender Stratocaster which had been signed by all the artists taking part was handed over by Ivor Arbiter to an emotional Donal.

Jack Bruce rounded off the evening by playing a set which included Cream classics 'White Room' and 'Sunshine of Your Love'. After his set, Jack was presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award by Dave Glover from the Arbiter Group.

On speaking to some fans after the show (Tim and Julie from Southampton, and Dave and Julie from Stoke on Trent) we agreed that we all enjoyed the show but we were a little disappointed that none of the artists managed to play any of Rory's songs.

I would like to thank Donal Gallagher for his kindness to us, and also Dave Glover from Arbiter for his help and cooperation.

Dino McGartland

Gallagher's Blues - Rory Gallagher Home Page