Posted on by Oran

Arriving at The Academy tonight I am very pleasantly surprised to see quite a queue forming for tonight’s gig. Rain, it appears, is not going to be an issue to the fans gathered outside, a number of whom have already been to the opening shows and are happily making travel plans for some more on this tour.

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Once the doors open it’s full steam ahead to get front and centre at the barrier to get the full benefit of what is promising to be one hell of a gig. Thankfully there isn’t too long to wait before The Amorettes hit the stage and when they do they certainly don’t disappoint as they tear into opener ‘Stealing Thunder’.

Their short set tonight draws heavily on their current album ‘White Hot Heat’ and vocalist/guitarist Gill Montgomery is in fantastic form and in no mood to slow it down as they go straight into ‘Let The Neighbours Call The Cops’. Bassist Heather McKay is like a dervish, constantly headbanging and cajoling those present to join in the fun. All the while her sister, Hannah, is keeping it all on track with some pretty impressive drumming. It’s great seeing a band who clearly enjoy doing what they do and have the songs to back it up. They finish their all too brief set with ‘Hot ‘N Heavy’ which allows Gill to really interact with the growing crowd and encourage plenty of audience participation before trooping off the stage having won a few more fans over to their camp. (4/5)

Gun seem to relish following the opening act, they look like they own the stage before they even play a single note. They open up with ‘Let It Shine’ which has the crowd singing along before jumping straight into a cover of Cameo’sWord Up’, which works incredibly well tonight and finds frontman Dante Gizzi covering every available inch of the stage with a confident swagger.

The audience really comes alive when Gun launch into, perhaps their most known track ‘Steal Your Fire’, and even after all these years it still sounds and feels great to shout out that chorus. The band leave on another cover song but this one is an absolute killer, Beastie Boys(You Gotta) Fight For Your Right’ really ups the ante and has previously stationary people jumping like their lives depend on it. While they certainly captivated the audience, two cover songs in a short set is, perhaps, overdoing it considering their own back catalogue. (3.5/5)

Make no mistake about it, this tour is incredibly important for the headliners. This is the time to step out of the Thin Lizzy shadow and shine in their very own right as Black Star Riders. In a recent interview with Overdrive (read here) guitarist Damon Johnson was extremely proud of their latest album ‘Heavy Fire’ and suggested that it would form the backbone of their setlist. Tonight is the acid test.

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The band take to the stage like it is their birthright and when they launch into title track ‘Heavy Fire’ it is immediately apparent that they mean business and are unlikely to take prisoners. Frontman Ricky Warwick possesses enough bad-ass attitude to grab the crowd by the neck and demand it’s undivided attention as Black Star Riders then hit us with a heavy one-two combination of ‘Bloodshot’ and ‘Killer Instinct’, hard rock songs being played damn loud but with enough melody to soften the blow.

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Guitarists Scott Gorham and Damon Johnson then come into their own on ‘Dancing With The Wrong Girl’, a song that is both a nod to the past of Thin Lizzy and the future of Black Star Riders. It’s an absolute joy to watch Scott and Damon trade guitar melodies so effortlessly, I’m genuinely not sure that I’ve ever seen Scott play so well while looking so at ease on stage.

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The crowd are firmly in the band’s grasp and there is to be no let up as they launch into ‘Soldierstown’ with its distinctly Celtic sound and a chorus that lends itself to being played live and loud. The band are on an absolute roll now and every song is being sung back to them at ever increasing decibel levels, and this is where Black Star Riders win when others falter.

Every band member interacts with the crowd; eye contact, hand gestures, guitar picks placed in hands rather than just flicked and this is all bolstered by Ricky’s incredible stage presence, be under absolutely no illusion that the stage is his kingdom and he will fight to keep every eye in the room on that stage at all times. And while this whole dynamic is happening it is all being locked together by the extremely tight and talented rhythm section of Robbie Crane on bass guitar and Jimmy DeGrasso on drums.

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Tonight there is only one Thin Lizzy song on the set list, the very apt ‘The Boys Are back In Town’ and it is played as it ought to be, with fire in its belly and a venue full of fans singing every word (and guitar riff) like their lives depend on it. How do you follow a song like this? Truthfully it’s incredibly difficult but ‘Voodoo Hoodoo’ and ‘Who Rides The Tiger’ have enough sass and swagger of their own to just about accomplish it.

By now the venue is like a sauna so thankfully the band take it down a notch for the excellent ‘Blindsided’ but it’s only a temporary respite as before long ‘Testify Or Say Goodbye’ has everybody moving again. You can feel the momentum building as the band hurtle towards the end of the set with an energy and desire that would put many bands to shame.

With the crowd in very full voice ‘Kingdom Of The Lost’ is absolutely perfectly timed and is followed by ‘Bound For Glory’ before the band play ‘Finest Hour’ as their last song of the night.

This is far and away the best I have ever seen Black Star Riders play, a nod to the past but with their eyes very much fixed on the future (5/5)


Heavy Fire


Killer Instinct

Dancing With The Wrong Girl


Hey Judas

When The Night Comes In

Cold War Love

All Hell Breaks Loose

The Boys Are Back In Town

Voodoo Hoodoo

Who Rides The Tiger


Thinking About You Could Get Me Killed

Testify Or Say Goodbye

Kingdom Of The Lost

Bound For Glory

Finest Hour

Black Star Riders – Dublin, Ireland 04-03-17. Photos: Down The Barrel Photography © 2017

Paul Lynam