Thin Lizzy, beyond a shadow of a doubt, is one of the greatest rock bands that have ever walked the Earth. So many people are quick to praise the songwriting abilities of folks like Springsteen, Dylan, and even James Hetfield, but the only true poet of rock and roll is the late, great, one and only Phil Lynott.
None of the aforementioned men (as talented as you may or may not think they are) have never been able to compose lyrics as haunting and emotive as Lynott. Sadly, Thin Lizzy is one of the most unknown bands beyond a couple of songs in the US that is so much more deserving of every ounce of recognition bestowed upon bands like Led Zeppelin, Queen, and the Beatles.
I have never been able to figure out what it was about them that never captured the ears of the US music market. “The Boy Are Back In Town” and “Jailbreak” are absolutely brilliant songs, but when you’re only hearing those and missing out on far superior tracks like “Emerald,” “Don’t Believe A Word,” “Massacre,” and “Still In Love With You” among so many others, it is a crying shame.
Sadly, we lost Phil years ago thanks in part to his addiction to drugs. Too many folks have lost their lives to their demons, whether they are brilliant musicians or close friends and family members.
No matter who is afflicted with the disease of addiction, the loss to it is truly one of the saddest because those left behind are conflicted pondering what they could’ve done differently. But honestly there is nothing anyone can do to change that. It’s up to the addict to decide when enough is enough.
As a former addict myself, I totally understand the clutch that a substance has on your life and how that persistent need to imbibe is so overwhelming. I’ve considered for some time writing about my abuse and how I have managed to stay clean for so long. Perhaps someday I will.
Despite the tragic loss of Lynott, the band a couple decades ago got back together, drawing together members of the band from different incarnations in order to pay tribute to the man, and do whatever they could to keep the music out in the collective conscience.
Much like my feelings in regards to Zappa Plays Zappa and The Grandmothers of Invention carrying on the legacy of Frank and his amazing music, folks like John Sykes, Scott Gorham, Darren Wharton, and Brian Downey (among others) continued to carry on for the fans not quite ready to let go of hearing these songs live.
I totally understand anyone that chooses not to see a band carry on without the main members that propelled that group. I feel that way for a few bands myself. However, my love of the bands I do choose to continue to support are ones that hold a special place in my heart and until I feel like it’s time to stop will keep on seeing them.
KISS is the best example of a band I have loved and supported for the better part of my life that I have made the decision to longer support due mostly to the fact that Paul Stanley’s voice is shot, but also because I have not enjoyed the last couple of albums and can no longer endure another show with a substandard guitarist emulating one of my heroes.
I managed to catch Thin Lizzy a couple years ago opening for Judas Priest. It was an odd mix (including Black Label Society,) and they only played a little over 30 minutes, but it is one of those concert moments that has stuck with me.
I always figured that would be my one and only chance to see them, so I jumped on that opportunity. A couple months ago I was looking at the web sites for the local clubs and saw that Black Star Riders was playing, and I immediately got up from the desk, walked to the back of the office, and put in for the day off.
See, last year the guys in Thin Lizzy announced that they were releasing new music, but had decided to change their name out of respect for Phil because they didn’t feel like it was right to put out a new album using Thin Lizzy since none of Phil’s music would be contained on it.
I have also heard that Brian Downey owns the name and since he decided to bow out that they couldn’t utilize the name any longer. No matter the reason, they went with the name Black Star Riders, and promised that despite the name change, their shows would still consist of a healthy amount of Lizzy songs.
This is precisely the reason I was quick to ask for the night off. FYI, the album is incredible, and the songs definitely have a strong Lizzy influence.
I’m going to breeze through the opening bands. To be brutally honest, I didn’t care at all who was opening: there was no one I wanted to see more than BSR. Both bands were local and though I always try to do my part to support the local scene (and did by arriving early enough to see them) I just had no interest in them.
First was Deep Sky. They were pretty good. Their style was straight forward rock, a good bar band type of sound. All three members were extremely talented, and under other circumstances I would’ve been more into them. I get the chance to see them opening for King’s X next month so that should be cool.
Following them was 21st Century Goliath. For what they did they were good, but they really weren’t my thing. It was like a mash-up of Jackyll and Bang Tango with a heavy AC/DC influence.
The musicians were good, but I simply didn’t like the vocals. I actually took this time to purchase a BSR shirt, take it to the car, and text my woman and read a couple Facebook posts before going back in.
As I stated though, the opening bands could’ve been anyone and chances are I wouldn’t have cared too much (they would’ve had to have been major Bucket List bands to catch my attention this night.)
As I always try to do, I had researched some earlier setlists to get a feel of what to expect. It looked like for the most part the band was going back and forth with a BSR song followed by a Thin Lizzy song.
And that’s essentially what they did, however they threw in some songs I wasn’t expecting, which is a great thing. They played damn near their entire s/t debut album, which mixed perfect with the standards one would come to expect like “Jailbreak,” “The Boys Are Back In Town,” and “The Cowboy Song” along with “Emerald,” “Bad Reputation,” “Are You Ready,” “Southbound,” “Don’t Believe A Word,” and “Rosalie,” the last three listed were surprises. After they played “The Boys Are Back In Town” it seemed like the show was ending.
They came back out and played a rousing rendition of “Whiskey In the Jar” followed by the aforementioned “Rosalie.” With the exception of not playing “Massacre” (this had been on previous lists I had seen) I felt like the song choices were outstanding. Sure, it would’ve been great to hear stuff like “Cold Sweat,” “Thunder and Lightning,” and “Fighting My Way Back,” but there is always next time.
Playing these amazing songs is a group of some of the finest musicians around. Joining the legendary Thin Lizzy axe slinger Scott Gorham you’ve got Damon Johnson (former Alice Cooper guitarist, and in my estimation the best player he’s had in a very long time,) Marco Mendoza (formerly of Whitesnake,) Jimmy Degrasso (formerly of Y&T,) and Ricky Warwick (formerly of The Almighty.) It is very obvious that these men have a love, respect and care for the music they’re performing.
Granted, the man that still brings them in is Gorham, but, and this is no exaggeration, Ricky Warwick is the only man I can ever imagine filling the shoes of Phil Lynott (OK, John Sykes did a magnificent job, but John Sykes is a pretty incredible musician anyway.)
Seriously, you could close your eyes and damn near think that the man himself was on the stage. Not only does he have major vocal similarities to Phil, Warwick’s lyrics are poetic and tell stories akin to those of classic Lizzy.
Though the new songs have a similar vibe to the original material they’re very contemporary. Tracks like “Bound For Glory,” “Kingdom of the Lost,” “Hey Judas” and “Valley of the Stones” fell in seamlessly with the songs we Thin Lizzy fans have loved and adored for so many years.
Even while they were still touring under the old moniker they insisted that it was simply to pay homage to Phil and to carry on his legacy and his music. Black Star Riders are the perfect vehicle to continue on with it as well as sporadic appearances under the Thin Lizzy label. And I must say that they are indeed one of the most superior tribute bands I have ever witnessed.
After the show was over, all of us were so pleased with what we had seen. We rejoined together and talked about what the highlights were for each of us. Everyone was all smiles, as we were waiting in hope that the guys would come out.
Marco sort of came to the side of the stage and was accessible, but I was enjoying talking to my friends so much I just didn’t go out of my way to speak to him. Besides, we were still under the idea that they were going to come out like they had the previous night.
It wasn’t long after that one of the Amos staff people informed us that if we didn’t have a laminate that we had to leave. The seven of us stood outside the club a long while just shooting the shit.
I got to meet someone that I have heard about from one of my oldest and dearest friends, Jerry from Dogbane, and his friend David. And apparently my friend Jim had been telling Jerry about me as well. He and I shared some stories about our friend, as well as various tales about music and shows. He is a super nice guy, as well as David. Plus Dogbane is an excellent band I encourage you to check out!
Slowly our little group of people dwindled down until it was just myself and the twins. Nick, Sean and I hung out a while talking about their upcoming EP release, happening June 28th at Tremont Music Hall. Be there!!
Regrettably I had to bust up our conversation as I needed to get home and check on my woman. Already felt bad leaving her in pain, but she totally understood and wouldn’t have it any other way. All in all it was an excellent night of music and great friends. I had just as much fun hanging out with my friends (newer and older) as I did at the show.
This is a fine group of people that I am proud to call my friend and spend a night hanging out and watching some great live music. I wish AJ had felt like going, and wish my best friend Roger had been able to make it. Hopefully next time I will have everyone with me. OK my peep’s until next time always remember: I walk a murder mile wearing deadman’s shoes when all hell breaks loose.
Review by Chris Martin
Photo by Steve Goudie
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