At The Empire, Middlesbrough, U.K., November 14, 2017

BLACK STAR RIDERS (Live at The Empire, Middlesbrough, U.K., November 14, 2017)
Photo: Mick Burgess

It’s been quite a year for the Black Star Riders with a Top Ten UK album and three BBC Radio 2 Single of the Week accolades along with a triumphant Special Guest slot at the prestigious Ramblin’ Man Festival in the summer not to mention a show stealing headlining spot at Hard Rock Hell and their own sold out UK tour earlier this year. It’s going to be pretty hard to top that.

With a second leg of shows booked for territories not hit during the first run, Black Star Riders were back in the North for a show at The Empire in Middlesbrough. Like the first leg of the tour which featured a strong supporting cast that included Backyard Babies, Gun and The Amorettes, they pulled out all the stops again to make sure that a great value package of up and coming talent was put on for the fans.

London based, Dirty Thrills with their fired-up Blues based Rock’n’Roll set the ball rolling with an energetic romp through songs from their recently released Heavy Living album.

Tax The Heat have been making waves for a couple of years now and roping in Masters of Reality maestro Chris Goss for their debut EP release was testament to their burgeoning potential while their first full album Fed To The Lions showed a band with one foot in the traditional Hard Rock camp and the other in a more contemporary mode coming across as the missing link between Thin Lizzy and Queens of the Stone Age. A hectic schedule on the road with Europe and Thunder has honed their stage craft and a lively 30-minute set featuring On The Run, Money In The Bank and new song Change Your Position certainly won over a fair few new fans.

In Elin Larsson, Blues Pills have a potent tour de force of a singer whose slight frame belies the powerhouse voice that channels passion and emotion to create a Swedish Janice Joplin.

Larsson is a compelling front woman, never still for a moment getting completely lost in her music. The heavy weight swirling Psychedelic Blues takes you back to the ’60s and their take on Jefferson Airplane’s Somebody To Love makes that trip all the more real. Yet it is their own material that shines through with High Class Woman and Devil Man giving Larsson the chance to show her range while sparring with the impressive lead guitarist, Dorian Sorriaux.

Over the course of 5 years and three albums since forming from the last touring incarnation of Thin Lizzy, Black Star Riders have grown to be one of the best live bands around. That’s no surprise really bearing in mind the band features a who’s who of Rock including Thin Lizzy’s guitar supremo Scott Gorham, Damon Johnson from Alice Cooper’s band and Ricky Warwick from The Almighty along with bassist Robbie Crane who has played with everyone from Ratt to Lynch Mob and with drummer Chad Szelgia recently jumping aboard from Black Label Society this makes for one formidable line up.

With three albums of material to play with and a revamped setlist from this year’s earlier tour, Black Star Riders plundered their back catalogue with aplomb mixing a set of commercial Rockers like Bound For Glory, The Killer Instinct and Finest Hour with some fine Lizzy inspired Celtic epics such as Kingdom of the Lost and Soldierstown where Gorham and Johnson delivered the trademark Thin Lizzy guitar harmonies to perfection while Ricky Warwick was clearly enjoying every second up on stage and makes for one imposing frontman with his distinctive Irish brogue bringing each song to life.

Although Black Star Riders stand and fall on their own material, it’d be unthinkable for the odd Lizzy song not to creep into the set. After all, why have Scott Gorham in the band and not play a Lizzy tune so a punchy Jailbreak fitted the bill perfectly while Whiskey In The Jar brought the whole two hour set to a rambunctious close. An absolutely brilliant show and a killer setlist from a seriously potent live band.

Review and Photos by Mick Burgess


  • 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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