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O2 ABC Glasgow
Thursday 5th March 2015

Ian Sutherland

ian sutherland

black star riders

Glasgow has a thriving live music scene but many of the venues have curfews so if you are the opening act on a three band bill you can end up with a ridiculously early starting time. So it proved tonight.

Many bands would have been daunted by coming on at 6.20pm, a mere twenty minutes after the doors opened, not to mention being strung out in a line across a narrow strip at the front of a full stage. However tonight's opening act are The Amorettes and this Scottish threesome eat challenges like this for breakfast!

Despite the hall just starting to fill up they set the guitars and drums on stun and launched into opening song 'Rock Me Roll Me' like their lives depended on it. These girls have talent and catchy songs and yeah, looks too, but what always makes everyone take notice at every gig they play is their sheer attitude. Nothing fazes them, they have total confidence in their on stage ability and they smack you between the eyes again and again with bursts of raw rock energy until you like it. Resistance is indeed futile.

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black star riders

With a thirty minute set taken mainly from new album 'Game On' they satisfied the die hards and got huge approval from those seeing them for the first time. Of the new songs it was the rifftastic 'Bull By The Horns' and the fiery 'Give 'Em Hell' which stood out for me. As the last note of traditional set closer 'Hot And Heavy' died away I felt sorry for the people still filing into the venue who missed them.

black star riders

I have to admit to being a doubter about Black Star Riders up until now. I didn't have a problem with Scott Gorham continuing Thin Lizzy in some way but wasn't sure about Ricky Warwick's credentials in the lead singer role. The change of name was probably a good idea but the new material has yet to grab me so I was interested in checking them out live.

Opening with 'Bound For Glory', which did really sound hugely Lizzy like in this setting, the first thing I noticed was what a confident frontman Ricky Warwick has become. This was the first time I'd seen him on a stage in many years and he really dominated his part of the stage and confidently worked the crowd. I'm not sure why he needed to play an acoustic guitar for the opening song and the follow up and first Lizzy tune of the night 'Jailbreak' as I certainly couldn't hear it above the rest of the band but he set his stall out straight from the start.

black star riders

The other band member who got most attention from the crowd was of course Lizzy veteran Scott Gorham. Looking like a cool elder statesman of rock with the grey hair and black outfit he was just effortlessly cool, smiling as he surveyed the audience and still capable of lightning bursts of melody and fire from his Les Paul.

The rest of the band struggle to get noticed so much although guitarist Damon Johnson held his own on those all important moments of twin lead guitar of which Gorham has been such a famous participant.

So far as the music goes BSR have the dilemma of balancing out new material that they are proud of with the all time classic songs from Thin Lizzy's back catalogue and personally I didn't always find it an easy mix. 'Soldierstown' sounded like it was trying a little too hard to have a Celtic edge and sandwiched between 'Emerald' and 'Don't Believe A Word' it suffered in comparison.

black star riders

Other songs fared better though and a run of recent material with no classics didn't affect the atmosphere of the show at all. This is a big time old school rock band and they sounded the part even before launching into versions of classic Lizzy covers like 'Rosalie' and a surprising (to me at least) set closer of 'Whiskey In The Jar'.

Entering into the spirit of a co-headline tour there was a refreshing lack of the encore nonsense and the band took their bows after a mostly excellent and spirited seventy minute set. There is plenty of life in the veteran musicians here and I'll be revisiting their back catalogue after this display.

Europe are famous the world over for "that" song and seem to have spent a long, long time working on almost living it down. Since the full reunion in 2003 they have been releasing strong albums of serious hard, even edgy rock and tonight they did what I expected and came out to play their new material and stake their claim to be a band who are all about moving forward.

black star riders

The opening songs were from new album 'War Of Kings' (reviewed here) and sounded dark and almost melancholy although with that trademark twist of melody. Europe have always been a great, tight professional live band and so that is what we got tonight but with a focus on the last five albums.

Even when they did go into their back catalogue early on it was to obscure melodic Metal track 'Wasted Time' from the 'Wings Of Tomorrow' album and the first cheer of recognition for a song was for the jaunty 'Superstitious'.

Joey Tempest prowled around the stage and looked to have way more energy than he should at this point in his life. He managed to totally dominate proceedings. The playing from everyone else was faultless and guitarist John Norum in particular was tremendous but the rest of the band seemed happy to let Joey do all the hard work and to be fair he seemed to relish the opportunity.

black star riders

I know Europe are a very confident band but they seemed to be making up the set list as they went along which meant there were a lot of discussions between songs so the show didn't really flow along very well and the pacing seemed a bit awkward, however I think it says a huge amount for the band that despite that and the unfamiliar nature of much of the material to many in the audience they still held the attention of the majority of those present.

Mid set ballad 'Praise You' was surprisingly effective with beautiful guitar work from John Norum and I enjoyed the eastern tinged complexities of 'Firebox' but the inevitable return to the the 80s roots meant a bombastic end with 'Rock The Night' and the still irresistible 'Final Countdown'. It's hard not to grin when that keyboard riff kicks in no matter how cynical you get!

black star riders

Echoing the Black Star Riders there was no encore, just a taking of some well deserved applause at the end of an excellent night.

This was an interesting double bill of two acts who are looked on by many as heritage acts chained to their pasts but who are also vibrant, creative bands with new material they are proud of. In the live environment they dealt with their situations very differently and in terms of audience reaction I would say Black Star Riders did better but I have to say that there were no losers here and I thoroughly enjoyed all three acts for different reasons.




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