Review by Jason Guest and photos by Sean Larkin
The disappointing news on Saturday morning that Black Spiders wouldn’t be opening this show didn’t go down well. Given the two hour wait for Thin Lizzy to appear at 8.30, Black Spiders could easily have stolen their way into the FM Arena, set up, played one of their customarily blinding sets and promptly pissed off again and nobody would have complained. In fact, it may have made those two long hours in what was, for all intents and purposes, a warehouse of sweat-accumulating bodies that much less pained, particularly when all of those bodies are aware of Axl’s proclivity for showing up when he feels like it. Despite this however, it can’t be denied that this near-full 10,000 capacity venue is brimming not just with bodies of advancing years but also with much anticipation of a great show by one of rock’s most controversial and talented frontmen.
At London’s High Voltage Festival last year, Thin Lizzy played pretty early in the day and had the audience eating out of their hands. Whether you think Thin Lizzy died with Phil Lynott and this is no more than a tribute act featuring ex-members, it can’t be denied that this bunch of devoted rock musicians are paying a remarkable homage to a catalogue of classics that need to be heard live rather than being confined (or should that be condemned?) to the occasional download from iTunes before disappearing into the murky depths of that great virtual jukebox known as the interweb.
Openers ‘Are You Ready?’ and ‘Jailbreak’ go down like an elixir of youth, the, erm, “more seasoned” becoming as animated as the younger members of the crowd, singing and dancing in celebration of the great man, his music and his band. As ever, ‘Whiskey In The Jar’, the song that everyone knows – the old because they were there the first time around, the young most likely because of Metallica – has the crowd carolling away. Even the indifferent and stoic security staff can be seen trying to conceal the urge to cast off the shackles of their responsibility and join in, but the evening has a different delight in store for security. When a bunch of drunken guys fall afoul of their excessive merriment and become a nuisance, they get a mighty applause for dragging them out of the crowd.
And so the happy-once-more crowd revel in the magnificent renditions of Thin Lizzy classics from ‘Suicide’ through ‘Emerald’ – featuring an appearance from Guns n’ Roses guitarist (who also did a stint in Thin Lizzy during 2011), Richard Fortus – to closers ‘The Boys Are Back In Town’ and ‘Black Rose’. This incarnation of the band has worked hard to retain the essence of the original songs and give them the life they deserve in a performance that lifts the crowd out of their sweaty patience into one of sweaty rapture. The wait and the absence of the Black Spiders are long forgotten. Now all that remains is the second wait, the long one…
Set List: Are You Ready, Jailbreak, Don’t Believe A Word, Waiting For An Alibi, Dancing In The Moonlight, Still In Love With You, Whiskey In The Jar, Suicide, Rosalie, Emerald, Cowboy Song, The Boys Are Back In Town, Black Rose
…or, rather, the shorter-than-expected one. 10.45, the lights go down, Guns ‘n Roses‘ intro tape begins, and a collective sigh of relief goes up. Oh, and a massive cheer as well. On the centre screen (one of five giant screens), the new G’n’R logo slowly materializes and DJ Ashba’s silhouette appears atop the drum kit to play the opening riff to ‘Chinese Democracy’. The near 10,000 capacity-crowd goes wild. Dizzy Reed and Chris Pitman appear behind the keyboards at either side of (and surprisingly quite far back behind) the drum kit, the stool soon filled by Frank Ferrer. Ashba makes his way to the front of the stage with Bumblefoot and Richard Fortus appearing along with bassist Tommy Stinson. And then, adorned with more bling than a chav with a special offer coupon for H Samuel, Axl Rose appears to deliver the first line and he is drowned out by the audience cheering his presence.
This is what they’ve been waiting for and Axl and co. deliver an approximately three hour set that takes in songs from all of G’n’R’s career. Axl has surrounded himself with a phenomenal bunch of musicians who show much respect for those early tracks and shine with the newer material, the cover songs, in the “impromptu” jams and in their solo spots. DJ Ashba plays call-and-response with the opening notes of ‘Welcome to the Jungle’, slowly teasing the crowd with false starts until it kicks in and the band and crowd unite in a sleaze frenzy. The Chinese Democracy material is greeted with (almost) the same enthusiasm as the early material, though the hyper-produced tracks of that album clash with the raw rock n’ roll of tracks like ‘It’s So Easy’, ‘Mr. Brownstone’, and ‘You Could Be Mine’. ‘Live And Let Die’ is given the explosive treatment with bangs on the downbeat that are louder than the band and deafen the crowd, and judging by the length of ‘Knocking On Heaven’s Door’, heaven must be closed for refurbishment or something. Visually stunning, the sound was almost perfect (Axl’s voice got lost in the mix a few times), the band – all stellar musicians – were tight and well-rehearsed. ‘Paradise City’ finishes the evening off and we leave to the sounds of Sinatra’s ‘My Way’. Whatever you think of the current line-up, at almost three hours and with more pyro and visual effects than Guy Fawkes on LSD, Axl puts on a hell of a show for his fans, his way. That is, for those that hadn’t had to leave to use public transport…
Set List: Intro (Splitting the Atom – Massive Attack song), Chinese Democracy, Welcome to the Jungle, It’s So Easy, Mr. Brownstone, Sorry, Rocket Queen, Estranged, Richard Fortus Guitar Solo, Live and Let Die (Paul McCartney & Wings), This I Love, Motivation (Tommy Stinson song;Stinson on lead vocals), Dizzy Reed Piano Solo (Baba O’ Riley), Street of Dreams, You Could Be Mine, DJ Ashba Guitar Solo (Mi Amor 2.0), Sweet Child O’ Mine, Instrumental Jam (Another Brick In The Wall Pt. 2), Axl Rose Piano Solo (Gran Torino/Goodbye Yellow Brick Road/Someone Saved My Life Tonight), November Rain, Glad to Be Here (Bumblefoot song; Bumblefoot on lead vocals), Don’t Cry, Better, Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door (Bob Dylan), Nightrain
Encore: Instrumental Jam, Madagascar, Civil War, Instrumental Jam (Chip Away the Stone), Paradise City, Outro (My Way – Frank Sinatra)
And you can see more of Sean’s shots from the show here: