He remains probably the most influential and fondly remembered Irish musician of all time, so it is fitting that Phil Lynott is commemorated each year. Organised by Lynott’s close friend Smiley Bolger, the Vibe for Philo is an annual event held on January 4, the anniversary of Phil’s death. Each year a collection of Irish musicians and performers come together to play the music of Phil Lynott and Thin Lizzy to an audience of respectful friends, family and fans.
The 27th Vibe for Philo took place in a packed out Button Factory on Friday. First on stage were the aptly named Dubh Linn Boys, a band who completely embodied their home town in distinctive Dublin songs Johnny, Southbound and Oldtown, as well as beautifully tender rendition of Still in Love with You.
Following this Conor McGouran (who played his first Vibe in 1997 at the age of 11) joined The Harleys for a fabulous acoustic rendering of Don’t Believe a Word and some other gems, including massive versions of the Phil Lynott and Gary Moore collaboration Out in the Fields, and Black Rose.
The love in kept on coming northern Irish group The Low Riders, who took on the challenge of delivering some of Lynott’s earliest material in a set that consisted entirely of songs taken form Thin Lizzy’s first three albums.
From the audience response it was clear that the fans are still as passionate about the music as ever. But Lynott’s influence stretched far from just music. Following The Low Riders, street poet John Cummins presented a piece of spoken word, hip hop balladry. The poem (written specially for the occasion) was wonderfully evocative of the influence music could have on somebody’s life. Cummins’ words culminated in a chorus like refrain, which described Phil as the “fíle with fíliocht in his fola.”
Next on stage were upcoming young rockers Sal Vitro, fresh from a supporting slot opening for the reformed version of Thin Lizzy in the Olympia theatre in November. Their short set consisted of slow, heartfelt renditions of A Song for while I’m Away and Dear Miss Lonely Hearts. The palpable emotion the band related through the music was a powerful indicator of the influence Lynott’s music continues to have on young artists. The fact that Sal Vitro managed to bring their own distinctive sound to bear on the songs, sets them apart as a band both capable of following in the Thin Lizzy mould, and of succeeding in their own right.
Before the final band of the night took to the stage, Smiley Bolger brought out a very special guest, Phil’s mother Philomena. She told of the legions of fans who still write her letters and come to visit her. “People keep thanking me,” she explained, “but it’s me who should be thanking you.” She led the packed out crowd into a minute of silence, not just for Phil, but for “all the loved ones you’ve all lost,” she explained. After the sheer energy of the previous acts on the stage, the silence was a powerful reminder of the loss being commemorated.
The final act on stage was Sheffield cover band The Thin Lizzy Experience. Complete with afro haired, bass playing front man, they couldn’t have done much more to look the part. They blasted through a set of classic Thin Lizzy numbers with suitable mix of energy and charisma. They hit all the classics, from Waiting on an Alibi and Dancing in the Moonlight to a medley of the Cowboy Song, Rosalie and The Boys are Back in Town, before culminating in a rousing rendition of Whiskey in the Jar.
By this point it was after two in the morning, but the crowd weren’t ready to go home just yet, and Smiley Bolger wasn’t about to let the band vacate the stage just yet either. The call for one more song was answered with Running Back, Do Anything you Want To and Sha-la-la. The music felt like it could go on forever, like there was an infinite amount of songs still to be played. It was a fitting tribute to the enduring nature of music, the power of music to endure across generations. The Thin Lizzy Experience kept playing until closing time at 2.30, finally finishing off with a request from the audience to play Cold Sweat. More than anything else it was an absolutely fitting tribute to Philo.