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Black Star Riders - O2 Academy, Newcastle 10.03.2017

Due to the fun and games of travelling between Sunderland and Newcastle via public transport after work I missed the first song or two of Gun's set. It's been a long journey for the Glaswegians from their first album release in 1989, but the band don't show it. Bass player Dante Gizzi has now swapped his four string for the role of lead vocalist which he's been doing for a good while now. They still sound fresh and vibrant. New song ("She Knows"?) sounds promising sitting well with crowd favourites "Better Days" and "Shame On You". I'll definately be checking them out when they tour again.

Speaking of tours, it's been a good while since the Backyard Babies graced a stage in Newcastle and the Toon let's them know. After a few years on hiatus, the Swedes have invaded the North East with their own take on sleaze and punk. How this band never became big is still a mystery, the dynamic pairing of Nicke Borg on lead vocals and guitar with Dregen on lead guitar sizzle with their own electricity leaving the rhythm section of Johan Blomqvist (bass) and Peder Carlsson (drums) to pin the whole thing down. A short, eight song set is just suckerpunch after suckerpunch, leaving an eager crowd begging for more. And you would be too when the Swedes are serving up diamonds like "Th1rt3en or Nothing", "Brand New Hate" and set closer "Minus Celsuis". Even a few technical glitches can't put a dampener on things. Come back soon for a full gig guys......

Black Star Riders finally seem to be shrugging the legacy of Thin Lizzy that's dogged them since they formed. New album, 'Heavy Fire', landed them a top ten album spot in the UK, establishing them as one of the forerunners of the current hard rock scene. They open their set the same as the album, sirens blaring as all five members stride confidently onstage before chugging away at "Heavy Fire", a track that felt awkward on the album to me but has grown into a confident opener. "Bloodshot" follows and it's clear that they're not here to take any prisoners.

Front man Ricky Warwick commands the stage like a man half his age (he recently turned fifty and shows no signs of his age), riffing away on guitar with confidence. His many years leading bands as well as his own solo work means he knows what he's doing, effortlessly nailing his vocals with ease. He just makes it look so easy, swapping between acoustic and electric guitars between songs. "Killer Instinct" hints at the band's legacy, the twin guitar work of Damon Johnson and Thin Lizzy alumni Scott Gorham conjuring up the sound of one of the finest songs the legendary band never wrote, the two guitarist's pinning down an exact representation of what many people remember Thin Lizzy for.

The band are more than comfortable in their own skin now. Three album's mean there's no real need to rest onthe Thin Lizzy legacy as much as they used to, especially when they conjure up killer songs such as "Soldierstown" and "Hey Judas". They actually remind me how many great songs they've actually got, with each of their three albums getting fairly represented. A muscular (blame Ricky's vest top) "All Hell Breaks Loose" prefaces tonight's only Lynott song, "The Boys Are Back In Town". Scott Gorham could probably play this in his sleep but he still plays it with enthusiasm and Warwick obviously loves the band, his take on Phil's vocals are respectful without resorting to imitation. Somewhere an Irish rogue is smiling with his approval.

The technical gremlins are back as Warwick's mic stops working on "Who Rides The Tiger", forcing the band to shuffle around available microphones so Warwick can sing his lead parts. Johnson plays a fantastic emotive solo on "Blindsided", proving to anyone who might doubt his playing when stood alongside a legend like Gorham, he more than holds his own playing alongside the legend.

"Testify Or Say Goodbye" is dedicated to the Radio 2 DJ's who've gotten behind the song (the "housewife's choice" Ricky reminds us with a knowing wink) before the band finish off with a triumphant triumvirate of "Kingdom Of The Lost", "Bound For Glory" and "Finest Hour" close the set. There's no encore, just the sight of five smiling men knowing they've done their job well before taking a well deserved bow, leaving some of the leather jacketed audience a little confused as the main house lights come up.

Black Star Riders are now showing many of their peers how the job is done, with ease and grace. Gorham is keeping the soul of Thin Lizzy still burning whilst still coming up with great new songs alongside Johnson, allowing Ricky Warwick to claim his place as one of the genre's finest frontmen.

'It's always funny until someone get's hurt and then it's just hilarious.....'

Review - Scott Hamilton

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