Black Star Riders
with Dead Daisies & Western Sand
@ The Limelight, Belfast
Sunday December 15th 2013
Review & Photography by Paul Verner
Just over a year ago, the latest incarnation of Thin Lizzy played Belfast’s newly rejuvenated Limelight complex on what would be the penultimate date of that particular ‘Farewell Tour’. The Rock n’ Roll grapevine had been busy spitting out rumors that the current line-up had been writing new material and after that gig the fans were eagerly awaiting some kind of news about a new release from the Thin Lizzy camp.
They didn’t have to wait long as just before the end of December it was announced that the new album would be released the following spring under the name Black Star Riders, but original members Darren Wharton (keys) and Brian Downey (drums) would not be joining them, instead they would push ahead without a keyboard player and Jimmy Degrasso (ex Megadeth) would be taking up the sticks behind the drum kit.
Fast forward 12 months and with the promised new album and a lengthy touring schedule behind them, Black Star Riders’ final date for their ‘All Hell Breaks Loose Tour’ is set in front-man Ricky Warwick’s hometown – Belfast.
Before that though, support act Western Sand take to the stage and rip into their short set which is a good solid slab of bluesy southern rock. An enthusiastic performance despite the cramped stage conditions which saw drummer Nathan Kay out on one side of the stage while his band-mates were on the other side, separated by the drum kit of the other support band on the bill; Dead Daisies .
This didn’t seem to deter Kay at all, and he took full advantage of his time at the front of the stage as he entertained with his flailing hair and arms all the while holding down a solid beat to which his band mates blasted out songs such as ‘Nothing to Lose’ & ‘Take It Away’ with great confidence. An impressive start to what was shaping up to be another classic night of Rock n Roll at the Limelight.
Next up were the Dead Daisies, who without pretense took up their respective instruments and started into set opener ‘Gonna Take Time’ and from the first few notes it was plain to see the pedigree & the musicality of the individuals now on stage.
Jon Stevens’ (INXS) vocal range is exceptional with the New Zealand born singer’s voice hitting all the high falsettos, but getting gritty and raspy when the song asks for it.
Guitarists David Lowy (Red Phoenix) & Richard Fortus (Guns N’ Roses) supply some brilliant little guitar licks & solos which lift and move the music. Fortus’ charisma oozes from the stage with every exaggerated jump & guitar sweep and for a while a section of the crowd are transfixed watching him.
With Charley Drayton (The Cult/X-pensive Winos) on Drums and bassist Darryl Jones (Rolling Stones) keeping the rhythm section straight and in the groove, Dizzy Reed (Guns N’ Roses) completes the line-up, providing piano & keys to add just a little more class throughout the set.
The style of music is smooth & easy on the ear, at times leaning more to the blues than to hard rock, though this is a band who aren’t afraid to rock out when they want to as they demonstrate with a roaring cover of The Beatles’ Helter Skelter to close the set leaving many in the audience asking when the Dead Daisies will return on their own headline tour.
Dead Daisies Setlist:
Gonna Take Time; Evil
Washington; Your Karma
Miles In Front Of Me
Face I Love
Lock N’ Load
After the brief break, during which the stage is completely de-cluttered and the covers taken of Degrasso’s Black Star Riders branded drum kit, the intro music starts and the band members wander out onto stage one by one. Scott Gorham & Damon Johnson blast the opening bars of ‘All Hell Breaks Loose’ out through the custom Marshall stacks, Marco Mendoza, bass in hand & cool as a cat, plants his foot a-top the monitor speaker and checks out those lucky enough to be in the front rows of the audience. All the while Ricky Warwick whips about the stage sending the crowd excitement levels through the roof.
Guitars slung low and classic rock poses a-plenty, the set is split almost 50/50 between the new Black Star Riders material and the classic Thin Lizzy hits that are so, so familiar to this audience.
As you would expect at the end of a lengthy tour the bands’ playing is tight and well oiled, not at all like they’re tired, but more like they’re just a bunch of mates playing great tunes together, and having fun along the way. Reveling in the crowds’ natural affinity towards the singer, hometown boy Ricky Warwick, declares ‘There’s no better city to end the tour’ judging by the crowd reaction tonight he just might be right.
From start to finish the crowd sing along to every word, play air guitar during the solos, and genuinely love this music. Why wouldn’t they, a lot of them have grown up listening to it, it has crossed generations, as well as local social and religious divides. It’s a formula that works, and it’s no surprise that that this new material sits so well alongside the classics. With the promise of a new Black Star Riders record to come, bring on 2014.
Black Star Riders Setlist:
All Hell Breaks Loose
Are You Ready*
Before the War; Jailbreak*
Don’t Believe a Word*
Kingdom of the Lost
Hey Judas; Southbound*
Kissin’ the Ground
Valley of the Stones
Bound for Glory
The Boys Are Back In Town
Danny Boy (Damon Johnson Solo )
Whisky in the Jar*
(* – Thin Lizzy cover)
(** – Bob Seger cover)