at Arizona, Sunderland, U.K., September 9, 2015

When the last touring version of Thin Lizzy decided the time was right to record new material, the idea of using the legendary name was quickly quashed as a Thin Lizzy record without the iconic Phil Lynott was simply unthinkable. From the ashes of Lizzy arose the Black Star Riders, whose two albums in as many years, paid tribute to the past but looked to the future.

With the Black Star Riders on a short break between tours vocalist Ricky Warwick and lead guitarist Damon Johnson decided against kicking back and relaxing for a while opting instead to head straight back out onto the road together for a series of intimate, acoustic shows and tonight was the opening night of the tour.

With a collective history spent writing, recording and touring with Alice Cooper, Thin Lizzy, The Almighty, Brother Cain, New Model Army, Stiff Little Fingers and Slave to the System as well as Black Star Riders and with song writing credits for Stevie Nicks and Carlos Santana, Johnson and Warwick have an impeccable pedigree and wealth of material to draw from.

Ricky Warwick and Damon Johnson

Arizona was the perfect venue for a show like this. It’s compact, tight and atmospheric with the crowd right up to Warwick and Johnson resulting in plenty of interaction throughout the course of the show.

A fair chunk of the night taken up with acoustic reworking’s of Black Star Riders songs with Finest Hour and Killer Instinct showing an innate grasp of melody when stripped of its electrical refinery yet it was a startling, sparse rendition of Blindsided that took the honours.

Warwick dipped into his past with a stirring take on The Almighty’s Free and Easy while Johnson delivered a finely crafted run through Pontiac. Although Warwick handled most of the lead vocals Johnson did get to show that he possesses a warm, powerful voice that most other lead guitarists can only dream about and when both traded vocals on the vintage Thin Lizzy album cut, Borderline, it was a triumph.

With a setlist that was made up on the fly featuring requests taken from the audience added to the spontaneity of the night with early calls for Bound for Glory and Thin Lizzy’s Southbound both being rewarded.

Ricky warwick and Damon JohnsonThrowing in a few wisely chosen covers upped the tempo with Motörhead’s Ace of Spades performed acoustically to perfection and the Sex Pistols Something Else preceding a rampant Summertime Blues added to the brew but it was the closing trio of Boys Are Back in Town, a superlative Born to Run and Lizzy’s Whiskey in the Jar that really created a vibrant, campfire style atmosphere.

With the Black Star Riders gearing up for an extensive tour with Whitesnake and Def Leppard in a couple of months this was a rare chance to catch two classy musicians away from the cavernous, impersonal arenas and in a setting that that was more akin to a gathering of close friends, that was a recipe for one fine night.


  • Mick Burgess

    Mick is a reviewer and photographer here at Metal Express Radio, based in the North-East of England. He first fell in love with music after hearing Jeff Wayne's spectacular The War of the Worlds in the cold winter of 1978. Then in the summer of '79 he discovered a copy of Kiss Alive II amongst his sister’s record collection, which literally blew him away! He then quickly found Van Halen I and Rainbow's Down To Earth, and he was well on the way to being rescued from Top 40 radio hell!   Over the ensuing years, he's enjoyed the Classic Rock music of Rush, Blue Oyster Cult, and Deep Purple; the AOR of Journey and Foreigner; the Pomp of Styx and Kansas; the Progressive Metal of Dream Theater, Queensrÿche, and Symphony X; the Goth Metal of Nightwish, Within Temptation, and Epica, and a whole host of other great bands that are too numerous to mention. When he's not listening to music, he watches Sunderland lose more football (soccer) matches than they win, and occasionally, if he has to, he goes to work as a property lawyer.

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