One of the great sadnesses of my formative music years was the failure of Philip Lynott’s post- Thin Lizzy outfit to get as far as a record deal- despite their reputation as a live act, including as support to Status Quo in the first ever gig I attended, back in 1984.
However the story has a happy ending, beginning with an extraordinary reappearance at this year’s Ramblin Man festival. Albeit with only guitarist Laurence Archer left for the original line up, this show, the first of a UK tour, coincided with the release of a new album ‘Hit the Ground’, which received a rave review on this site. I’m pleased to say there was also one of the healthiest turnouts I’ve witnessed at the Underworld in a while.
As a bonus, support was provided by a band who could have headlined in their own right, Bad Touch. The Norfolk blues rockers steady rise to fame has hit a bit of a plateau with a rather quiet 2019 so far, though I know they have been recording new material.
They opened to a crowd that was slow to fill up, with the urgency of ‘Lift Your Head Up’ then a couple of rather dry rockers in ‘Movin On Up’ and ‘Show Me What It Means’, and the fact they have greater recent live experience than the headline act showed in their excellent stage presence and dynamic movement.
‘Good On You’ enlivened the crowd- not least with an unexpected mid-song diversion into ‘Sharp Dressed Man’ though its ‘Jealous Again’ feel was a reminder that if the reformed Black Crowes ever tour the UK they would be an eminently suitable support act- not least with the low slung Les Pauls of Rob Glendinning and Daniel ‘Seeks’ Seekings.
Despite Stevie Westwood’s distinctively gruff voice, not every song hit the mark, but ‘Outlaw’, dynamically building to a big chorus was very impressive, while ‘Go Down on Me’ was interspersed with a snatch of Marshall Tucker’s ‘Can’t You See’.
‘Dressed to Kill’ was a sassy number that grew on me but the best was saved to last, with ‘99%’, another with that distinct ‘Exile…’ era Stones or Black Crowes groove having people joining in and completing a very welcome return to the stage.
The anticipation was crackling as an intro tape heralded the arrival of Grand Slam and as Laurence cranked the brisk riffs to ‘19’ (which eventually saw the light of day as a Phil solo single) I was transported back to a place in time where I was even younger than that age.
It was followed by the new single ‘Gone are the Days’, coming over as a glorious cross between UFO (who Laurence was in for a while) and Lizzy; indeed for a moment as Laurence played the first solo I thought I was about to hear the latter’s ‘Do Anything You Wanna Do’.
‘Military Man’ lost nothing in comparison to the version Phil and Gary Moore eventually combined on- indeed as well as being a very confident front man, Mike Dyer had a natural hint of Lynott in his voice, while Benji Reid successfully captured the song’s distinctive drum patterns.
At this stage the GS catalogue is a mixture of old, new and somewhere in between: I was sure ‘Come Together’ drew on their old song ‘Harlem’ while ‘Crazy’ is an old number from Mike and Laurence’s days in Rhode Island Red and was as frantic as the title suggested.
‘Crime Rate’ had a steady, menacing beat with some particularly stylish playing from bassist Dave Boyce and was reminiscent, as a friend said of Great White’s ‘Rock Me’, but in contrast the title track, which began with Mike singing through a loud halo, had an almost punk and new wave energy to it.
The pace then changed with ‘Long Road’, with a vocal intro from Laurence, a lengthy, reflective number allowing the band (including guest keyboard player Andy Fuller who played a low key but effective role) to again stretch out somewhat.
As the set moved to a conclusion, there was a great atmosphere at the front with singing along and punching the air to ‘Dedication’, a song Laurence had to reclaim from a rather sordid Lizzy cash-in, then ‘ Sisters of Mercy’ had an epic feel, building from a slow intro with some very ‘Emerald’ style playing from Laurence..
However, after a fast and furious hour, the encores were a tad anticlimactic-first a solo from Laurence giving way to an instrumental named after the band, then the song that Mike said had been specially requested for the final number was, oddly, a reprise of ‘Gone Are the Days’.
That gripe aside, it was a brilliant night being able to reclaim a Grand Slam that up until now was only a fond but distant memory and with such a fine band, they can finally move forward with confidence, only 35 years too late.
Review and photos by Andy Nathan
Album review (Grand Slam)
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