Black Star Rider Boys are Back in Town.
Black Star Riders have a coming of age party and blast Leeds Academy into submission with some Heavy Fire.
The headline of this UK tour should really read that Black Star Riders are now finally a great rock band in their own right, with their own history and stories to tell.
Sure – they have a significant connection to the Thin Lizzy legacy, most of the players are in both bands, and you can’t deny the signature twin guitar work is there in spades, even Ricky Warwick has that Lynott Irish rounded vowel sound in his vocals. But now, after 3 strong albums of their own material, they are able to shake off the need to play so many Thin Lizzy songs, leaving ‘The Boys are Back in Town’ the only remaining one in the setlist.
It’s a coming of age party tonight, the difficult third album ‘Heavy Fire’ appears not so difficult to make, and the individual members of this band have such pedigree, that it’s always going to be a competent professional job.
Air Raid sirens beckon the band on stage and it’s a mighty confident entrance, Damon Johnson is straight to the front raising his guitar high in the air as if to signal an onslaught of some powerful chords and riffs are about to take place. Take cover as Ricky Warwick is equally festooned in leather and chains, and with his left hand raised in the air declares tonight’s gig open, and ‘Heavy Fire’ gets its first live airing in Leeds. It’s a powerful punch and immediately the synergy between the two lead guitars is evident, both Damon Johnson and Scott Gorham are producing that Lizzy sound, even these new songs have such a strong resonance of that great classic rock band.
Ricky takes 5 minutes out to thank the audience which he declares are already better than Newcastle, much to the cheers of the Yorkshire crowd. Whether that is a standard showman’s line or not, who knows?, perhaps tomorrow night in Manchester they might be even better than Leeds.
This is pure Classic Rock territory, but there is a strange whiff of freshness to the normal pantomime of twiddly guitar solos, macho posturing and hairy leathery blokes dressed in black. The sound is clean and the tone and balance of the twin leads is a mastery lesson to any new band eager to learn the craft. Particularly during ‘The Killer Instinct’ where the interplay between the two is just sublime, Gorham at 65 is definitely past the seasoned pro stage, and generally leaves most of the twiddly bits to Johnson who is clearly having the time of his life on stage, frequently laughing and smiling if he isn’t pulling the traditional guitar god poses.
Warwick alternates between electric and acoustic or alternatively no guitar at all, always ready to pull a serious biker snarl and a wide legged stance, he is a force though, a strong personality and when he screams ‘All Hell Breaks Loose’ it probably does! That track in particularly seamlessly transcends into ‘The Boys are Back in Town’, and as you would expect crowd reactions are almost euphoric in return.
Black Star Riders could from that point onwards have gone into Lizzy legend territory and it’s to their credit that they don’t, they now have an arsenal of great material in their own right, even “Housewives favourites” according to Warwick as they have started to get some airplay on Radio 2. Instead we have three great tunes to wrap up the evening but that is after another five songs which are mainly from their new “Top 5 in the UK” album.
‘Kingdom of the lost’ and ‘Bound for Glory’ however, are both crackers from the ‘All Hell Breaks Loose’ album, and the last cut of the night being ‘Finest Hour’ from their debut.
There is no encore, no need and there is a club night about to take place so an early curfew for everyone tonight, but we leave having witnessed a band that have organically grown into a really powerful unit who are able to cut loose from their historic musical chains that have bound them for the last few years.