Black Star Riders, Dead Daisies, Western Sand: O2 Academy, Bournemouth – live review
Black Star Riders, Dead Daisies, Western Sand
O2 Academy, Bournemouth
22nd November 2013
As it proclaims on BSR’s website “Black Star Riders are in the UK NOW!!!” The band, featuring Scott Gorham from Thin Lizzy, have brought with them special guests in the form of The Dead Daisies and Western Sand. They kicked off their first ever UK tour in Bournemouth last Friday, and for Louder Than War Nick Holmes (words) and Tess Donohoe (photos) were in attendance. Scroll down for remaining tour dates.
A few years ago revered guitarist Scott Gorham revived Thin Lizzy with a new line-up and then toured the globe with other classic rock luminaries including Guns N’ Roses and Motley Crue. In similar vein to brickbats thrown at GNR’s sole original member W. Axl Rose, Gorham and friends were criticised by purists who argued the name should be left in the archives. This contributed to the decision in 2012 to rebrand and relaunch as Black Star Riders with the intention of releasing new music. The band, featuring The Almighty’s Ricky Warwick on vocals, recorded album “All Hell Breaks Loose” and went back on the road to promote it, keeping a number of Lizzy classics in the live set. Then it was over to the fans and media.
Back in the 1970s this Bournemouth venue played host to the legendary Led Zeppelin. On a chilly Friday night there was a definite sense of nostalgia as several hundred middle-aged rockers gathered to see a certain kind of rebirth. Before that, local hopefuls Western Sand warmed things up with a short but sweet set of traditional style US-influenced bluesy rock. Since seeing them over a year ago in a tiny club their confidence has grown. They seemed relaxed on a much bigger stage and songs such as “Nothing To Lose” were impressive. Vocalist / guitarist Tyler Hains sounded uncannily like a young Ricky Warwick with his throaty rasp.
Next up was a super-group of sorts. Dead Daisies are a project that comprises supporting cast from some of the biggest rock n’ roll circuses in music history. Keyboard player Dizzy Reed is the longest serving Guns N’ Roses member other than Axl Rose and guitarist Richard Fortus has been a colleague of his for over a decade. On bass is Darryl Jones who plays with The Rolling Stones and they also feature former The Cult contributor Charley Drayton on drums, plus guitarist David Lowy.
Australian vocalist Jon Stevens, who sang for INXS after the death of Michael Hutchence, was a bit nervous during the first couple of numbers, but once he got in the swing a vocal style much more like Bon Scott than Hutchence kicked in. The songs, including debut single “Lock n’ Load”, were delivered with precision expected from such seasoned pros and it was a heady mix of sounds. There were moments reminiscent of Zeppelin, AC/DC but also Primal Scream (a track with similar feel to “Moving On Up”) and even one vaguely akin to a heavier version of Rocky Horror’s “Time Warp”! There were a couple of new songs too including the insistent “Your Karma”. The crowd was initially hesitant, but by the end, a cover of The Beatles’ “Helter Skelter”, there was a great rapport between them and the band.
Back in his days with The Almighty, Belfast-born Ricky Warwick once roared on a track called “Welcome To Defiance”. Black Star Riders display that same trait on their collective sleeves. The stage was hung with a backdrop featuring World War 2 style plane livery, complete with pin up girl. The icing on the caustic cake was the theme from “Tombstone” and Kurt Russell’s Wyatt Earp bellowing, “You tell ’em I’m coming! And hell is coming with me!”
Then there were the songs, the set based on the Riders’ debut album “All Hell Breaks Loose” starting with the brooding title track. The sense of belligerent determination remained clear on other LP songs such as catchy single “Bound For Glory”, “Before The War” and spiky “Hey Judas”. Of course these were interspersed with Thin Lizzy classics and the two different eras melded well. As expected the audience went nuts for tunes including “Are You Ready?”, “Jailbreak” and “Emerald” for which the stage was appropriately bathed in green light. Sometime California resident Warwick referred to his Celtic-ness on several occasions and it adds a certain poignancy knowing Phil Lynott’s memory is being kept alive with help of a fellow Irishman, one who was and is a Thin Lizzy fanatic.
The other players, Scott Gorham (see pic by Tess Donohoe, right) and Damon Johnson on guitars, bassist Marco Mendoza and drummer Jimmy DeGrasso are all vastly experienced and lovingly recreated the classic sound. There was also palpable enthusiasm on their own new material with all of them joining in backing vocals during various songs.
The Western theme reappeared with main set closers and massive crowd-pleasers “Cowboy Song” and “The Boys Are Back In Town”. There was also time for two more rousing sing-a-longs in the encore, “Whiskey In The Jar” and a cover of a cover, Bob Seger’s “Rosalie”. There were certainly no first night nerves from BSR, who had been touring Europe for a while already. In fact, they seemed slightly reluctant to pack in as Warwick led Freddie Mercury-style “Eh oh!” call and response and whirled his mic stand.
It is maybe obvious why the Riders picked the imagery and themes they have. In “Tombstone” a grizzled, middle-aged Sheriff is forced out of retirement and reunites with his deputies to settle scores. The circumstances are somewhat different, but the concept of relaunching into the world with points to prove is certainly there. These particular Riders are all guns blazing and will be razing towns across the UK and Ireland in the next few weeks. Catch them while you can.
Remaining tour dates:
- Tue/Nov-26 Cambridge, England Junction
- Wed/Nov-27 Norwich, England UEA
- Fri/Nov-29 Pwllheli, Hard Rock Hell (BSR only)
- Sat/Nov-30 Wolverhampton, England Wulfrun Hall
- Sun/Dec-01 Cardiff, Wales University “Solus”
- Mon/Dec-02 Oxford, England O2 Academy
- Tue/Dec-03 Liverpool, England O2 Academy
- Thu/Dec-05 Inverness, Scotland Ironworks
- Fri/Dec-06 Edinburgh, Scotland The Picture House
- Sat/Dec-07 Newcastle, England O2 Academy
- Sun/Dec-08 Leeds, England O2 Academy
- Tue/Dec-10 Leamington Spa, England The Assembly
- Thu/Dec-12 Nottingham, England Rock City
- Fri/Dec-13 Manchester, England Ritz
- Sat/Dec-14 Dublin, Ireland Academy
- Sun/Dec-15 Belfast, N. Ireland Limelight
All words by Nick Holmes and all photos © Tess Donohoe. More of Nick’s writing on Louder Than War can be found here and you can see all of Tess’ photos from this show in the photo gallery below. Find Tess’ website HERE.