© Jay Hawkins
Photos by Jay Hawkins
Live Gig Review Credit: Mark Dean (Journalist/Writer/Contributor) Myglobalmind Webzine)
Surprise, and shock were the emotions that registered when I first heard of the location for the World Debut gig by Black Star Riders. This is a band formed by four musicians who have formed a musical and personal bond while touring extensively around the world as Thin Lizzy in recent years. Hitting the dilemma of recording new material but what moniker to release it under proved a quandary. I feel that the decision reached was a just and sensible one. By adopting a new band name, its allowed them to focus on the future, but also pay homage to the past. The media buzz on the band has been massive, thanks largely to the industrious nature of their label Nuclear Blast, and the quality and established background team of Siren Music Management. As this was dubbed a huge media event I thought that it would prove to be a very worthwhile trip, on several levels.
Travel posted my next problem, after quickly establishing that flights were extremely expensive, it lay down to ferry and coach. Unfortunately this would prove to be an arduous experience. Departing at teatime on the Wednesday(the day before the show) I set off.via a ferry to Scotland and I only had a nine hour coach journey now ahead of me.. I say only but unfortunately my travel companions were not in the same frame of mind as myself. I had intended to while away the hours in nocturnal slumber and bliss, they had other ideas. Basically I was dispatched into Milton Keynes(well a lay by off the motorway)in the early hours of Thursday. Physically and also mentally(Eastern European folk songs anybody?)exhausted, I thought that I at least was close to my destination Milton Keynes is a city established in a grid system of town -planning. What this primarily means is no specific town centre just a network of roundabouts with shops and housing cluster grouped around these. Much foot miles totted up later, I finally located the world renowned and iconic Marshall factory show location. The small theater at the rear of the building was the shows venue. Not privy to regular shows, Marshall staff informed me that it was instead used by major artists as a venue for pre-tour rehearsals. Looking around the many signed artists pics that adorned the walls the world renowned quality of the iconic Marshall brand was clear from Clapton, May and Mustaine to Slash and Oasis.
Entering the venue, I soon encountered affable Black Star Riders band management persons. Secured an unscheduled interview (on a non press day),and then had the pleasure of aurally experiencing a complete run through of the bands full set. Instantly I was impressed with the seamless nature of the integration of the old and new material by the band. As I expected with living with the albums material for several months already the new songs sounded tight, and powerful. Transferring effortlessly to the live setting, and driven by the pounding rhythms of drumming legend Jimmy De Grasso I immediately started to relish the gig later in the evening. Hooking up and touching base with the band members, during the afternoon the hours passed quickly.
Black Star Riders
© Jay Hawkins
This was billed as an event more than “just “another gig. As such there was several other things scheduled, including a Bsr-Marshall raffle. Band members freely mixed with fans signing autographs and posing for endless fan pictures. The venue itself was unique, and intimate,(capacity at a sold-out 350)with a friendly atmosphere existing. Securing my front row spot(heck all that travel made me feel that it was justified),I awaited the shows start. Kicking off only slightly later than the promised time of 8.30pm and introduced by a Dj from the Planet Rock radio station it was lights down and fists raised.
Kicking off with All Hell Breaks Loose title track of the album, the band were clearly on fire. Sound was crisp and clear, and we were off and running. Fusing the trademark Lizzy dueling twin guitar sound-with bass and drumming legends, and the vocals of former Almighty front man Ricky Warwick it made for a tasty musical cocktail. Despite seeing Ricky live in many guises over the years solo, and as singer with Lizzy, Almighty and sic(remember them?) the vast improvement in his vocals was definitely noticeable. He truly has improved his vocal technique over the years, his phrasing and style just exudes quality. The front man role he has always reveled and excelled in and is a master of his stage craft. No stopping for a breath and Lizzy classic Jailbreak was up next, complete with searchlights on my trail..The four musicians that had toured worldwide with Lizzy in recent years had an established on-stage chemistry, however Jimmy has slotted in effortlessly. Stepping into the shoes of legendary drummer Downey cant have been an easy task for any mere mortal. To successfully integrate and to play with clear fire, passion and enthusiasm I was extremely impressed with Jimmy De Grasso’s performance.
Both band and audience seemed to be feeding off each others enthusiasm, momentum never flagging in a sweaty but pleasurable experience. New anthems and old classics rotating and integrating in a tightly executed set. Bloodshot a sing-along tune from the debut album, following next driven by some sublime dual lead work from Scott and Damon. It was also good to note that the new songs were universally accepted by a receptive and enthusiastic crowd, already familiar enough to be singing along with each track. Many of these tunes look likely to in time also attain the classic status as the Lizzy oldies aired this evening. Majority of the Black Star Riders debut albums tracks were aired to an audience for this premiere nine in total. I really would not be surprised to hear that they will be playing the album in its entirety as the forthcoming tour progresses…The album itself is a very strong one, with all killer no filler definitely being the catchphrase.
Evening seemed to fly by in a blur. The audience and band were buzzing, and despite my travel difficulties I was glad that I had made the trip to catch the show, just had time to thank a few people, meet a few rock stars (from Quireboys and Stiff Little Fingers), and disappointingly shred my non-winning raffle ticket. In conclusion the evening delivered quality entertainment, and like everybody else that had witnessed the Black Star Riders introductory performance I would be proud to say as per the official event badge and T-shirt that “I was there” “Bound for Glory”? I think that Black Star Riders wont be long in achieving that status, already on the way with current chart placing of the “All Hell Breaks Loose” release. Successfully bridging the past and present of the band this marks a new and exciting chapter in their history, inevitable world domination waits!!!