Black Star Riders, 14th March 2017, Rock City, Nottingham – review by Martin Tillyer

Black Star Riders supported by Backyard Babies and Gun, Rock City, Nottingham,14th March 2017

Having been away for the weekend watching a selection of tribute bands at Legends of Rock ‘Yarmageddon’, I came home on Monday evening to a message offering me the chance to go see the Black Star Riders at one of my favourite venues. I knew I wouldn’t turn it down.

I had not seen either of the support bands before so it was going to be interesting to see what the build up to the headliners was going to be like.

Gun came on with the crowd already building up, they brought their own blend of traditional British rock (Scottish to be more precise).

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Their set had a good balance from their back catalogue including the cover of Cameo’s “Word Up” and a cracking new track “She Knows” from Gun’s forthcoming album.

Set:

Let It Shine

Word Up!

Don’t Say It’s Over

Better Days

She Knows

Steal Your Fire

Shame On You.

Band – Dante Gizzi, Vocals – Jools Gizzi, Guitar – Tommy Gentry, Guitar – Andy Carr, Bass – Paul McManus, Drums

Following these were Swedish rockers Backyard Babies, This was a band I hadn’t previously heard of. From the start they were into a set that had far more pace with a harder edged rock with a heavily Punk influenced sound, bringing to mind bands such as Hanoi Rocks.

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Set:

Th1rte3n or Nothing

Dysfunctional Professional

The Clash

Brand New Hate

Bloody Tears

Nomadic

Minus Celsius

Look At You

Band – Nicke Borg, Vocal – Dregen, Guitar – Johan Blomqvist, Bass – Peder Carlsson, Drums

Each of the support acts played for about 40 minutes, leaving about 30 mins until the Black Star Riders which soon went by. This was to be the third time I had seen them – the first was at Download. At that time I had not heard of them, but did initially think they sounded like a good Thin Lizzy covers band (we were not near enough to really see the stage and the weather was shocking)! I was so impressed with their original music, and when I returned home to investigate them and found that they had Scott Gorham on guitar it became a lot more obvious why! I bought the first album at that point. At that time the set was actually split 60 – 40 % of new tracks to the old Lizzy tracks.

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Tonight, they started off the set with the title track of the new album “Heavy Fire” before leading into “Bloodshot” and “The Killer Instinct”. It was then back to the new album for “Dancing with The Wrong Girl”.

It is becoming obvious that they are a really tight unit giving their own blend of rock still with Irish influences which you would expect with Ricky as a front man.

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“Soldierstown” and “Hey Judas” lead to two more of the new tracks, “When the Night Comes In” and “Cold War Love” which is a slower number, one of my favourites from the new album.

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“All Hell Breaks Loose” speeds it up again next, followed by a track that I, perhaps controversially, feel didn’t need to be in the set, “The Boys are Back in Town”. Time has moved on and now into their third album they are definitely a band in their own right and in my opinion they don’t need to keep the Lizzy Link going.

Back then to “Hoodoo Voodoo”, “Who Rides the Tiger”, another faster punchier number, followed by “Blindsided”.

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“Thinking About You Could Get Me Killed” and “Testify or Say Goodbye” from “Heavy Fire” lead into penultimate tracks “Kingdom of the Lost” and “Bound for Glory”.

With the finale of “Finest Hour”, BSR had been on stage for well over an hour and I wish it could have lasted much longer – an amazing performance as I had expected.

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I did hear people saying at the end they wished they had played more Thin Lizzy… but to me, they are the BLACK STAR RIDERS and nothing else is required.

Thank you, until the next time…

Review and photos by Martin Tillyer

Editor: Fi Stimpson

Gig Review: Stiff Little Fingers @RigidDigits at @Rock_City_Notts , 11th March 2016 #MusicIsEverything

Ricky Warwick & The Fighting Hearts

The last time I saw Ricky Warwick was when Black Star Riders supported Def Leppard & Whitesnake in December 2015.

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He was a great frontman then, and brought the same required elements this evening, including BSR bassist Robbie Crane as part of his band The Fighting Hearts.

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The majority of the crowd didn’t know the songs, and even seemed slightly apprehensive at the start, but were soon won over with the superlative Rock and Celtic Punk tunes.

The highlight for me was hearing Finest Hour by Black Star Riders again – can’t help loving that band!

It was a pleasure to see these guys on a more accessible stage, and I reckon they definitely procured a few new fans tonight!

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Perfectly coiffed Mohicans and checked trouser wearing men who I’m pretty sure used to have Mohicans, teenagers with their dads, Goths, bearded Vikings, and couples who have grown together with the music… that was the makeup of tonight’s crowd. An eclectic mix indeed!

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It’s not about the look, though… it’s about the passion, the fire, the energy, the strong statements about Irish politics and other pertinent subjects, the lack of fear and the mutual fondness and respect. Every single person was there for one reason alone… Belfast’s own Stiff Little Fingers.

The moment Jake, Ali, Steve and Ian strode onto the stage, their audience erupted with fierce joy, showing their loyalty and adoration for this band who have been doing their thing since 1977. Incidentally, that’s before I was born, and there were people there tonight who were a lot younger than me – nice to know the older Punk bands are still corralling a new following!

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Tonight’s gig was like a short story, each song a chapter depicting the world of Stiff Little Fingers. There was much hilarity when Burns lamented about arriving over here too late for the Brit Awards. Jake pointed out that Adele’s mantelpiece must be huge, then went on to say that they don’t believe in awards… they “believe in the power of guitar and drums”! This prompted a rip-roaring cheer and a good old pogoing session!

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Favourites “Nobody’s Hero” and “Barbed Wire Love” went down a storm – it was truly wonderful watching the loving crowd sing and wave along to these iconic tunes. In fact, the audience was in my opinion better than a choir – I haven’t heard a group of people sing so loud without microphones since I saw The Wailers!

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I was mesmerised tonight – there were guitar solos to die for, the bass repeatedly sent shivers down my spine (McMordie’s hands were so blurred that I thought I could see a mirage!), the lean, vigorous drums were relentless and Jake’s affable nature, humorous and entertaining anecdotes and formidable stage presence ensured the careening music, sturdy vocals and profound lyrics meshed together to form the perfect tale.

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I can’t review this evening without mentioning Jake’s battle with Depression. He wrote the song “No Going Back” as a self-help guide, and had to be talked into recording it by Ali. He’s thankful for that, especially as he’s had countless people express their gratitude for putting their feelings into words. I can personally vouch for the fact that “The first step to getting better is talking about it”, and must admit to feeling a little emotional, as at that moment in time everyone there was reconciled to supporting those with mental health issues. I therefore extend my own appreciation to Burns for bravely wearing his heart on his sleeve.

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Just as I thought the pace was about to wane, the energy turned up a notch with “Tin Soldier” and “Suspect Device” (which has become a favourite of mine, largely thanks to my other half’s band The Expletives selecting the song for their set – I’m confident that Jake would agree they do a grand job!)

Stiff Little Fingers returned for a two song encore, and with a particularly feisty rendition of “Alternative Ulster”, the book was closed on the evening’s narrative.

I left with an overriding feeling that Punk most definitely hasn’t gone away – both this band and their music consistently stand the test of time in their collective rally against injustice, and we are with them all the way.

Gig Review: Def Leppard & Whitesnake, 19th December 2015, Sheffield Motorpoint Arena.

What happens when you put two of the biggest bands in the world in a room together with 13,500 rabid fans? The answer was provided on Saturday night at Sheffield’s Motorpoint Arena, when both Whitesnake and Def Leppard graced the stage for our entertainment. What did we get? A spectacle of the highest degree.

Of course, the night didn’t start with either of those bands. The support was provided by Black Star Riders, who were formed in 2012 by the most recent members of Thin Lizzy who wanted to record new material under a different name.

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This band has a killer lineup – the legendary Scott Gorham on guitar along with a very energetic, charismatic Damon Johnson, Ricky Warwick on vocals doing a convincing Phil Lynott impression during the Thin Lizzy tunes, Jimmy DeGrasso on drums (who has also played for Ozzy Osborne and David Lee Roth’s bands to name but two), and exciting bassist Robbie Crane who stepped into the shoes of one Marco Mendoza last May.

Performing nine songs with barely a pause to take a breath, they displayed their vehement prowess with spirit and gusto. It was an absolute thrill to hear the four Thin Lizzy songs included in the set, particularly The Rocker for which they were joined by Def Leppard’s Vivian Campbell to give another harmonic layer of guitar sound. There was an almost lump in the throat provoking nostalgia when Black Star Riders ripped into “Are You Ready” – a window in time for those of us who never got to experience Phil Lynott and Thin Lizzy.

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Black Star Riders’ own material was very reminiscent of Chinatown/Renegade era Thin Lizzy recordings, with some ebullient twin lead harmonies from both guitar players. This is definitely a band I would go out of my way to see again.

Whitesnake were simultaneously brutal, with Tommy Aldridge on drums and Joel Hoekstra’s ferociously tight guitar playing, and subtle, bringing in superb four part backing vocals to enhance Coverdale’s occasional gruff, raspy tones.

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The inclusion of several choice Deep Purple cuts was an ace card; opening with no less than “Burn”, and including “Mistreated” mid way through their set were the highlights for me.

I would have liked to have experienced some of Whitesnake’s older classic “Trouble”/”Love Hunter”/”Ready & Willing” era numbers as well as the obvious hits which were present.

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A swaggerful potency I’d only heard about, but when witnessed up close, Whitesnake proved they do indeed possess such a quality. No mere hard rock band this; something way more sophisticated and multi-faceted, with world class players armed to the hilt with a back catalogue of songs spanning 40 years.

The horn throwing, camera phone waving, singing at the top of their lungs crowd were buoyed and energised by the emotion and power emanating from the whole band.

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It would be fantastic to see Whitesnake in a more intimate setting such as a concert hall, where they could be truly up close and personal with their crowd instead of the cavernous environment of an arena.

Following a highly charged set, Coverdale gave a particularly poignant farewell, saying “Don’t let anyone make you afraid!” before playing outro “We Wish You Well” from the iconic “Love Hunter” album.

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Def Leppard were completely in their element. With decades of experience behind him, Joe Elliot is the ideal frontman. Strutting around the stage like a peacock in his finest attire, he knows exactly how to present himself and work the crowd at the same time.

Guitarist Phil Collen’s physical confidence mirroring his guitar playing, Rick Savage’s strategic, tight basslines and the rambuctious lead guitar of Vivian Campbell, who I recall fondly from the Dio days, all make for a polished and perfective formula for a band who are at the top of their game.

Rick Allen’s life changing injury has been well documented, and it was good to see in person that it didn’t stop him from providing an expressive and colourful drum solo. Years of experimenting and adaptation have seriously paid off.

As the evening went on, I felt I would have liked to have heard less of a Greatest Hits package, and more of an adventurous selection of songs. Having said that, they did throw a couple of nice surprises in. The highlight of the set for me was the instrumental “Switch 625” from the superb “High and Dry” album. Having seen footage of 1983-86 era shows, the older material is considerably more feisty and exuberant with songs from the first two albums kicking some serious ass.

All in all, this was a noteworthy nostalgia trip. Def Leppard played what people wanted and expected to hear, and those people were by no means disappointed.

*Photos of Def Leppard to follow!*

Words by Fi Stimpson / Music vs. The World. All images were taken by and are copyright to Fi Stimpson / Music vs. The World – please do not use any image without prior consent.