Review by Paul Quinton, photos by Rob Stanley
The Wulfrun Hall is a fine venue at the best of times, and when it’s packed out, as it was for this gig, you have to go a long way to find a better atmosphere. Pleasingly, there was a healthy crowd to see support The Dead Daisies, although there has been a considerable buzz around the band recently, with healthy exposure on Planet Rock, which may or may not be connected to the presence of Slash on their debut album. The band are a collection of well-known and highly rated musicians including Richie Fortus (lately of Guns ‘n’ Roses and Thin Lizzy), Dizzy Reed (also Guns ‘n’ Roses), Darryl Jones (the Rolling Stones, no less) and Jon Stevens, who had a stint fronting INXS after the tragic death of Michael Hutchence. That’s pretty high-powered for a support slot at the Wulfrun, but the band more than lived up to the advance billing by giving us an extremely good set.
Musically the band are classic rock with strong nods to the Black Crowes at times, but they never feel anything less than bang up to date. The bass solo, however brief, was perhaps a little over the top for a support act, but this was a minor concern when compared to an absolutely blistering ‘Angel In Your Eyes’, and the performance of Jon Stevens. Sometimes he might have sounded a little like Tesla’s Jeff Keith, at others he put you in mind of Jimmy Barnes, but overall it was a fine performance, both by him and the band as a whole, and the crowd responded. As good a performance by a support band as I’ve seen for quite a while.
Scott Gorham has been touring various line-ups under the Thin Lizzy name for most of the last decade, but the decision to write and record new music meant not only a new name, as many felt it would not be right to record under the Lizzy name without the late Phil Lynott, but also that former Lizzy members Darren Wharton and Brian Downey decided they didn’t want to part of the new project. Therefore the Black Star Riders line up as a five-piece, with Scott Gorham joined by previous members of the Lizzy touring band, guitarist Damon Johnson, bassist Marco Mendoza and singer/guitarist Ricky Warwick, plus new drummer Jimmy DeGrasso, who has a long and highly rated past playing with the likes of Y & T, Dokken and in the Alice Cooper band.
The band opened proceedings with the title track of the new album, ‘All Hell Breaks Loose’, and two things were immediately evident. Firstly that the years of touring had made them a formidably tight unit, and secondly, that the sound in the Wulfrun was superb, loud, but crystal clear. Even under a new name, the band are under no illusions, a lot of the crowd have come to hear the old Lizzy songs, and the set was mostly put together so that a new song was followed by a more familiar one, ‘All Hell Breaks Loose’ being followed by the traditional Lizzy set-opener ‘Are You Ready’. Overall the new material dovetailed really well with the old songs, ‘Bound For Glory’ in particular sounding as if it had been in the Lizzy set for years and by the sound of it, is already a crowd favourite.
The older songs chosen were mostly predictable, ‘Bad Reputation’, ‘Jailbreak’, ‘Emerald’ and ‘Massacre’ were all joyously received by the crowd, but it was nice to hear ‘Southbound’ again, which seemed to have added some extra melancholy and sadness over the years. As ever, the main set ended with the classic pairing of the ‘The Cowboy Song’ and ‘The Boys Are Back In Town’, as immortalised on ‘Live And Dangerous’. Even now, that segue can still raise the hair on the back of your neck.
There was an encore, obviously, begun by Damon Johnson playing a Celtic-influenced guitar solo, which included parts of ‘Black Rose’, before the rest of the band joined in to play ‘Whiskey In The Jar,’ which I seem to remember Phil Lynott always refused to play live in the latter years of the original Lizzy. Nevertheless it went down a storm with the Wulfrun, and the gig was brought to a terrific end with a brilliant ‘Rosalie’. It’s hard to say whether this new band could be a sustainable proposition without the pressure to continue to play old Lizzy songs, although Scott Gorham has more right to play them than almost anyone else, and while it’s always a pleasure to hear one of the very best back catalogues in rock played live, the debut album is a high quality record, the band are excellent and this was a terrific show that achieved a near perfect balance between old and new.
See more of Rob’s photos here;