Review by Paul Quinton and photos by Mark Lloyd
By anyone’s standards, this was an absolutely mouth-watering triple bill, and terrific value for money. Although it was a bitterly cold night, and close to Christmas, the Institute looked pretty full when the headliners came on, but when rising Cambridge rockers The Treatment began the show, the hall was half- empty and verging on the chilly. This didn’t deter the band, who then proceeded to show exactly why they’re so highly thought of on both sides of the Atlantic, and it was noticeable how quickly the hall started to fill as the set went on. They worked really hard to get the crowd going, running around a segment of the stage barely bigger than a bus stop, but when a song as downright infectious as ‘She’s Too Much’ can’t get much of a reaction, you know it’s a tough gig. The Treatment are far too good to be playing 3rd on the bill, even a bill as good as this, and you should catch them now before they move onto bigger and better things.
And now, pray silence because the UK’s greatest melodic rock band are about to play, taking the stage to the strains of the theme to ‘The Pink Panther’, which longstanding FM fans will know is a reference to certain aspects of bassist Merv Goldsworthy’s stage wear back in the day. With a brand new EP, and a second album since getting back together to be released in March, these are heady times for FM and their fans, and the stint touring with Lizzy showed us a band almost at the top of their game. The set was drawn from most corners of the band’s career, including the bouncy title track of the new EP, ‘Only Fooling’, but, perhaps inevitably, it was the earlier tracks that stood out. Opening with a terrific ‘I Belong To The Night’ and then moving into ‘Don’t Stop’ set the bar pretty high, but the pace never let up. It was a bit surprising they chose to end with their cover of ‘I Heard it Through The Grapevine’, rather than say, ‘Hollow’ from their last album, which earned them some BBC Radio airplay, or even the mighty ballad ‘Frozen Heart’ but nonetheless, a great set from a great band, and their show at Wolverhampton’s Slade Rooms in March should not be missed.
So, after the UK’s greatest melodic rock band we have one of Rock itself’s greatest bands. The question of tribute bands is one I’ve considered a few times recently, and the t-word has been used in a disparaging way toward this incarnation of Thin Lizzy ever since John Sykes put the first post-Lynott band together over fifteen years ago. However, there are so many other bands on the Classic Rock circuit with far fewer ‘original’ members than Lizzy can currently boast, and as far as I’m concerned this is one of rock’s greatest back catalogues, it will always deserve to be heard, and needs to be played live, and there can’t be many other people more entitled to play it than some of the guys here tonight. Brian Downey, Scott Gorham and Darren Wharton are currently joined by bassist Marco Mendoza, singer and occasional guitarist Ricky Warwick and the newest recruit, former Alice Cooper guitarist Damon Johnson, and there was no doubt that from the moment the band opened the show with ‘Are You Ready’ that they’re still a quality unit, tight as the proverbial, and, at least as far as the crowd in the Institute seemed to think, perfectly able to do these songs justice.
The opening salvo is breathtaking, after ‘Are You Ready’, we got ‘Jailbreak’, a blistering ‘Don’t Believe A Word’, ‘Killer On The Loose’ and ‘Chinatown’ in quick succession, before the band gave the crowd some respite with ‘Dancing In The Moonlight’, although nobody needed any encouragement to sin along with the latter. After that they gave us something of a surprise with ‘Massacre’, which was great to hear again. There was an attack of the gremlins in ‘Waiting for an Alibi’, when Mendoza seemed to slipup on the intro before Scott Gorham’s guitar amp gave up the ghost completely for most of the song. Damon Johnson seemed to cover fairly effortlessly though, and the next couple of song, the mighty ballad ‘Still in Love With You and crowd favourite ‘Whiskey in the Jar’ also shared the limelight around, with Darren Wharton splitting the vocals with Ricky Warwick on the former and Johnson and Wharton featuring on the intro to ‘Whiskey..’
To be frank, there are a couple of things in the show that could be tweaked. Firstly, Rick Warwick often plays third guitar in the set, which tends to muddy the sound, and takes away some of the swing and swagger that made Lizzy such a special band. Secondly, I know this is Thin Lizzy we’re talking about, and there are some songs that have to be played, but sometimes it would be good if they did change it round a little, even surprised us occasionally. For example tonight there was nothing from the band’s last studio album, ‘Thunder and Lightning’, arguably one of their best and most consistent, and songs like ‘Cold Sweat’, ‘Sun Goes Down’ and ‘Holy War’ can certainly hold their own in this set.
But whatever your opinion of the merits of this lineup, and whether they should even be going out under that name, overall, this was a great evening’s music, three top quality bands, each with their own style and I doubt if anyone went out into the night disappointed.
And you can see more shots from the show here: