It was good to see “The Tiv” nearly full tonight, in stark contrast to our last visit and Wishbone Ash. This has more to do with Wishbone’s more extensive itinerary and accessibility and Black Star Riders’ more modest – and dispersed – six dates. And BSR’s short tour is the last outing for founder member guitarist Damon Johnson. He’s decided to pursue a solo career although he’ll still perform with vocalist Ricky Warwick.
It was Warwick who really stamped his mark on tonight’s gig, commanding the stage, engaging the crowd, and providing the impetus to a high energy set from start to finish.
The Riders have honed their craft over six years and three albums and if there is still a Celtic undertow which reflects their sub-Thin Lizzy origins they have fashioned enough of their own brand to be totally convincing.
This is a particularly significant achievement for the band’s instigator Scott Gorham who for several years ploughed the Phil Lynott-tribute furrow until he realised the Lizzy moniker would hamper the making of new material.
If Lynott is still ever-present in spirit, it’s a shame that just once in a while Gorham doesn’t revisit a song or two from 21 Guns, and especially the splendid 1997 album ‘Nothing’s Real’ (‘Movin’ On’ ?!). Although you could say that this would open up the prospect of Warwick revisiting his days with The Almighty.
If there’s a criticism, the Celtic fissure can make one or two songs sound a bit samey but when everything else is punctuated with solid riffage and muscular, precision playing, you can’t really go far wrong.
It’s to the band’s credit that one of only two Lizzy songs tonight – ‘Jailbreak’ – was slotted in seamlessly early on in the set. But the likes of ‘All Hell Breaks Loose’ and ‘Heavy Fire’ were highlights along with those songs that Warwick reminded us made the BBC Radio 2 playlist including ‘Dancing With The Wrong Girl’ and ‘Bound For Glory’.
If BBC playlisting is still an indicator of mainstream acceptance, in better times Black Star Riders would surely have regularly graced our TV screens.
There were rare outings too for the excellent ‘Charlie Gotta Go’ and ‘Hey Judas’ whilst the gig rallied with ‘Finest Hour’ and a purposeful ‘Whiskey In The Jar’. Only missing from this tremendous trawl through three excellent albums were the likes of ‘Through The Motions’ and ‘Valley Of The Stones’ and maybe even ‘Sex, Guns & Gasoline’. However this merely underlines the consistency of the band’s output since 2012.
So, it’s farewell and good luck Damon and hello Christian Martucci. 2019 will usher in a new chapter for one of our best bands in recent years as they set out to record their next album.
Earlier, Skin guitarist Myke Gray had performed another in-your-face hard rocking set with guest vocalist Kim Jennett particularly impressive.
Setlist: 1. Bloodshot 2. All Hell Breaks Loose 3. Jailbreak 4. Soldierstown 5. The Killer Instinct 6. Charlie I Gotta Go 7. Heavy Fire 8. Testify Or Say Goodbye 9. Blindsided 10. Before The War 11. Hey Judas 12. Dancing With The Wrong Girl 13. Ticket To Rise 14. Bound For Glory 15. When The Night Comes In 16. Kingdom Of The Lost 17. Finest Hour 18. Whiskey In The Jar
Review and photos by David Randall
Black Star Riders UK tour
Thursday 29 November – Southampton, Engine Rooms
Friday 30 November – Leamington Spa, The Assembly
Saturday 1 December – Planet Rockstock, Trecco Bay
Sunday 2 December – Holmfirth, Picturedrome
Monday 3 December – Sheffield, Corporation
The latest Facebook Live session from Canadian singer-songwriter Josh Taerk Sunday 21 March 16:00 EST, 21:00 GMT
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