at O2 Academy Newcastle, Newcastle, U.K., March 10, 2017

BLACK STAR RIDERS (Live at O2 Academy Newcastle, Newcastle, U.K., March 10, 2017)
Photo: Mick Burgess

Hitting the stage like a reincarnation of the New York Dolls, Sweden’s Backyard Babies brewed up an unholy cocktail of Punk splattered Rock’n’Roll, with Th1re3n Or Nothing’s cowbell clanking chaos and Dysfunctional Professional ducking and punching like a prize fighter in its prime. The chest thumping Bombed (Out of My Mind) sounded exactly like the title suggests as Minus Celsius had guitarist Dregen adding gang vocals to the utterly catchy chorus as lead singer Nicke Borg roused the Newcastle crowd for one almighty singalong.

After such an energy drenched opening, most bands may have feared to follow the Backyard Babies onto the stage. Black Star Riders, however, are no ordinary band. Formed out of the embers of the final touring version of Thin Lizzy, when it became apparent that new material was brewing and rather than put it out under the Lizzy name, a new band was formed.

Three albums into their career they were well and truly vindicated in that decision. With Scott Gorham on lead guitar the Lizzy sound runs right through the heart of the band and with the songwriting finesse of lead singer Ricky Warwick and lead guitarist Damon Johnson the very essence and passion of Lizzy has been captured without ever replicating what went before.

Black Star Riders must be doing something right as new album Heavy Fire crashed into the UK Top 10 and has just received Album of the Year award from Total Rock. Not bad going bearing in mind it’s only March.

What better way to start than the title track from their latest release, a big, bombastic tour de force stamped their intent right from the off. For the next hour and a half they barely paused for breath delivering a supremely balanced set of big epics All Hell Breaks Loose and Kingdom of the Lost that recall Lizzy’s Emerald and Black Rose; punchy commercial edged Rockers such as Bound For Glory and set closer Finest Hour with a couple of classy ballads Cold War Love and a heart wrenching Blindsided. Every one was a winner and absolutely no filler in sight.

Brimming with confidence and dominating the stage, Ricky Warwick is fast becoming one of the finest frontmen of this generation. It’s no coincidence that bar a riotous romp through Boys Are Back In Town, the whole set are Black Star Riders originals and Warwick was singing his words and his songs and that really shone through in a muscular performance with his wonderful Irish lilt perfectly suited to each and every song.

Scott Gorham has over the years in Lizzy partnered some great guitarists including Brian Robertson and Gary Moore. Now he has the perfect foil in former Alice Cooper guitarist Damon Johnson. The trade mark guitar harmonies shimmered and sparkled and the riffs punched hard on Who Rides The Tiger and swaggered on Hoodoo Voodoo.

An hour and a half and 18 songs later passed by in the blink of an eye, testament to a thrilling show by a band who have strode out of the shadows of a legendary band and have established their own hard rocking identity and Black Star Riders have what it takes to be a major name in the Rock arena for years to come.


  • 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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