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Irish rock? You bet they do!

Classic rock from the Emerald Isle


There was a British Invasion in the early rock days, but was there ever an Irish Invasion? No. We talk about Brit rock, but is there Eire rock? No (but there is Celtic rock, which is close.) Did any classic rockers even come from Ireland? Absolutely! And to prove it, here's a sampling of some noteworthy live performances by classic rockers who have many Irish genes. (As always, in alphabetical rather than "rank" order.)

Boomtown Rats - "She's So Modern"

Boomtown Rats Bob Geldof and Pete Briquette in 1977
Boomtown Rats Bob Geldof and Pete Briquette in 1977, photo by Denis O'Regan / Getty Images)

All of the Boomtown Rats were born and raised in Dún Laoghaire, Ireland. The band's name does not have Irish roots, however. It came from the name of a street gang mentioned by Woody Guthrie in his autobiography. The punk rockers recorded six albums, and had 15 singles on the UK charts, 12 of them in the top 40, but in the U.S. their albums never cracked the Top 100, and only one single, "I Don't Like Mondays" ever charted at all. They were together for a decade: 1975-1985, after which lead vocalist Bob Geldof became even better known as the force behind the Live Aid and Live 8 concerts. The Rats re-formed in early 2013 for a spring-summer tour.

Watch Boomtown Rats in a 1978 TV performance of "She's So Modern"

Rory Gallagher - "Bullfrog Blues"

Rory Gallagher in 1972
Rory Gallagher in 1972, photo by Michael Putland / Getty Images

It turns out that Ireland has been quite the breeding ground for blues guitarists. Rory Gallagher formed the blues rock band, Taste in 1966. They were popular throughout the British Isles, and lasted until shortly after their performance at the Isle of Wight festival in 1970. His first solo album came in 1971, followed by 11 more studio releases and six live albums. Gallagher died in 1995, leaving a lasting legacy that is embodied in this classic performance.

Watch Rory Gallagher perform "Bullfrog Blues" in 1980

Gary Moore - "Empty Rooms"

Gary Moore in 1980
Gary Moore in 1980, photo by Denis O'Regan / Getty Images

Gary Moore was Thin Lizzy's lead guitarist, three times. Born in Northern Ireland, Moore served tours with Lizzy in 1974, 1977, and in 1978-79. He released his first solo studio album, Grinding Stone in 1973, and released 20 more, his final one in 2008. Moore also has eight live albums in his catalog. His specialty was blues rock, and when he died in 2011 he was eulogized by many of the top rock guitarists as one of the greats. Watch this performance, and you'll understand why.

Watch Gary Moore perform "Empty Rooms" in 1984"

Van Morrison - "Bright Side of the Road"

Van Morrison in 1974
Van Morrison in 1974, photo by Michael Putland / Getty Images

After Van Morrison left Them to try a solo career, he never looked back. Since 1967, the Belfast-born singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist has released 34 studio albums and six live albums, in styles ranging from rock and blues to Celtic and jazz. He has won six Grammy awards, and is in virtually rock performer and songwriter hall of fame you can think of.

Watch Van Morrison perform "Bright Side of the Road" in Germany in 1982

Them - "Gloria"

Them in 1965
Them in 1965, photo by Len Trievnor / Express / Getty Images

Them were a blues-soul-garage rock band who influenced the next generation of rock musicians to nearly as great a degree as bands that led the British Invasion. The band was formed in Belfast in 1964 by Van Morrison, and lasted until 1966 when Morrison struck off on a solo career. They recorded two albums, and had several successful singles, notably "Gloria," "Here Comes the Night" and "Mystic Eyes."

Watch Them performing "Gloria" in 1966

Thin Lizzy - "The Rocker"

Phil Lynott circa 1980
Phil Lynott circa 1980, photo by Keystone / Getty Images

Between 1969 and 1974, Thin Lizzy brought us the best of Irish metal and hard rock. They re-formed a couple of times in the years since, but without founding member-lead vocalist-primary songwriter-bass guitarist Phil Lynott, who died in 1986. They are best remembered for songs like "The Boys Are Back in Town", "Whiskey in the Jar" and "Jailbreak" but their 12 studio albums and 12 live albums contain many more, just as noteworthy, like this one.

Watch a 1974 Thin Lizzy performance of "The Rocker" with Gary Moore on lead guitar

U2 - "Where the Streets Have No Name"

U2's Adam Clayton and Bono in 1984
U2's Adam Clayton and Bono in 1984, photo by Larry Ellis / Express Newspapers / Getty Images

The best known and most successful of all Irish rock bands (and most all British and American rock bands, for that matter) started in 1976 as a teenage garage band, first calling themselves Larry Mullen Band, Feedback, and The Hype before releasing their first single as U2 in 1979. All but two of the original members (Adam Clayton and Dave Evans, aka The Edge) were born and raised in Ireland. Among their accomplishments: worldwide album sales of over 150-million, 22 Grammy Awards, and regular appearance on lists of the top grossing touring bands. Although they were formed in the mid '70s and released one single before the decade ended, U2 really don't fit most definitions of classic rock. But to spotlight Irish rock bands and not include them? Not gonna happen.

Watch U2 perform "Where the Streets Have No Name" at Slane Castle in Ireland

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