It’s hard to believe that Black Star Riders are already a decade into their existence, the band born from the wish to create an outfit to continue the legacy of Thin Lizzy whilst not trading on the name. Wisely and with integrity, the last iteration of the Boys Are Back In Town legends decided that recording under the Lizzy moniker without Phil Lynott would be something the fans wouldn’t fully embrace, so B.S.R. were introduced to the world. These ten years have flown by, the band both seemingly part of our collective conscience for a long time yet still remaining as fresh and vibrant as they ever were.
Black Star Riders – UEA, Norwich – 15 February 2023
Words: Paul Monkhouse
Photography: Steve Ritchie
This celebratory jaunt sees a mix of veterans and new blood on the stage, the return of rock god Scott Gorham and original drummer Jimmy DeGrasso joining frontman Ricky Warwick and long-standing bass player Robbie Crane but with new addition Sam Wood joining them on guitar.
The mix works incredibly well, and the ever-smiling Wood has fitted perfectly, his long hair and stinging, classy solos a delightful echo to his legendary bandmate. Still firing on all cylinders, Black Star Riders really have nothing to prove, but that doesn’t stop them from putting heart and soul into every show, and when they kick off the night with the explosive and muscular Pay Dirt, you just know it’s going to be a good night.
Whilst the opener has the snotty attitude and fire that borders on punk, Another State Of Grace and Better Than Saturday Night lean more into Jailbreak-era Lizzy, their Celtic feel stirring the blood. This switch of mood is something the combo has mastered with deceptive ease, and you get moments when the brutal punch of When The Night Comes In is followed by the widescreen fighting spirit of the upbeat and melody-rammed Riding Out The Storm.
Whilst this is truly a band effort, Warwick becomes the focus of this storm of emotions, his Belfast roots bringing out the snarling fighter and the lyrical poet in equal measure, his exhortation of “bring me something to celebrate, no matter what the cost,” on Bloodshot, encapsulating this very talent.
Whilst this is gleefully rambunctious hard rock, Wood firing off some scorching solos while DeGrasso and Crane bring a freight train urgency, there’s time for fun too, as the recently recorded cover of the Osmonds cult proto-Metal track Crazy Horses is brought to even heavier life when played onstage. Strange as it may seem, it really works.
How do you top a gonzo moment like that? Well, you bring on Scott Gorham to up the riff amount to the max, and the full-blooded run-through of All Hell Breaks Loose shows the legend has lost none of his potency.
Locking in naturally together, Gorham and Wood bring back the sound of classic Lizzy twin guitar attack, trading solos and seemingly having an absolute blast. From the romping hard rock of Bloodshot and the spirited Soldierstown the quintet are a slick but powerful machine, supercharged and loud.
Throwing in a welcome nod to the past, Don’t Believe A Word is rougher-edged than the original but still has that glorious romanticism at its heart, the fretwork just as gritty as it ever was, and the soulful blues of Blindsided provided a chance to catch a breath and for Gorham and Wood once again show their finely honed chops.
It was always going to be a leap of faith, taking a known and much-loved band into an entirely new beast with its own identity, but Black Star Riders have achieved just that. With their growing number of killer tunes, constant touring and a solid belief in themselves, this decade together has seen them grow in stature and become a force to be reckoned with in their own right.
As a blistering Jailbreak stands shoulder to shoulder with self-penned heavy hitters and anthems like Bound For Glory and Finest Hour, you know that the legacy has been passed onto safe hands.
Every inch the rock star but shorn of the planet-sized ego, Warwick leads the troupe to victory time and time again. Stealing a phrase from the late, great Philip Parris Lynott, the frontman roars the question, “Are you out there?” to which there’s only one resounding and affirmative answer.