Black Star Riders + Backyard Babies + Gun
Friday 17th March
The Forum, Kentish Town, London
Another Friday night and yet another awesome gig in London - albeit on a night when England's capital turned green. Black Star Riders stormed into Kentish Town's The Forum - not only celebrating St. Patrick's Day but also the release of their latest album 'Heavy Fire'. The night was not all about BSR though - with a strong following for both support bands Backyard Babies and Gun - as evidenced with the t-shirts proudly displayed next to us. On the same theme of invading London, Glaswegian Hard Rock band Gun thoroughly rocked the joint with their impressive short original set, which included 'Let It Shine', 'Don't Say It's Over', 'Better Days', 'She Knows', 'Steal Your Fire' and 'Shame On You'. Featuring Dante Gizzi - vocals, Jools Gizzi - guitar, Tommy Gentry - guitar, Andy Carr - bass and Paul McManus - drums, the enthusiasm and versatility of the band was defined by a cool cover of Cameo's 'Word Up!' The invasion continued with the tattooed Punk/Hard Rock of Swedish band Backyard Babies with Nicke Borg - lead vocals/guitar, hoody Dregen – lead guitar/vocals, Johan Blomquist – bass and Peder Carlsson – drums. Right from the outset you couldn't take your eyes of these guys - this was real Rock n' Roll delivered with attitude - and yet another short set list consisting of 'Th1rte3n or Nothing', 'Dysfunctional Professional', 'The Clash', 'Brand New Hate', 'Painkiller', 'Nomadic', 'Bombed (Out Of My Mind)', 'Minus Celsius' and 'Look At You'.
Air raid sirens and strobe lighting greeted BSR as they opened with title track 'Heavy Fire' - imagine a heavy 'Waiting For An Alibi' thanks to the combination and riff intensity of Ricky Warwick, Scott Gorham and Damon Johnson guitar's - immediate testament as to why a bespectacled Warwick was presented with Planet Rock's Best Album award for 'Heavy Fire' earlier in the evening on behalf of the band. And we didn't have to wait long for the first Celtic sounding offering of the night as BSR launched into 'Bloodshot' from their very first album - 'All Hell Breaks Loose' - with Johnson's guitar work virtually breaking out into an Irish jig. BSR then returned back to the title track of their second album 'The Killer Instinct' which had those to-die-for Lizzy trademark chords plus an emergency stop towards its end, as Warwick milked the Forum crowd leaving the band in no doubt that those in attendance were up for the occasion.
And it was not only St. Patrick's Day, but it also just happened to be Scott Gorham's birthday - with not just one, but two choruses of 'Happy Birthday' afforded to the legend from the BSR faithful. 'Heavy Fire's 'Dancing With The Wrong Girl' saw more of those sweet jousting chords, whilst their Celtic riffs were complemented by Gaelic chants of "Tar a Ti" in the lyrics of 'Soldierstown' from 'TKI'. The slower 'Hey Judas' from 'AHBL' was followed by 'When The Night Comes In' - Jimmy Degrasso's pounding opening drumbeat accompanied by mass hand clapping, giving way to Gorham's guitar solo in this fast and furious track from 'HF'. 'Cold War Love' - also from 'HF' slowed things down nicely before literally 'All Hell Breaks Loose' with the classy title track from their very first album - with Gorham's guitar again in overdrive. And given the occasion - you could have been forgiven for listening out intently during every BSR intro for THAT Lizzy classic. Muted cries of 'Jailbreak' subsided until exactly half way through proceedings when, cue pyrotechnics, 'The Boys Are Back In Town' was ecstatically received - to be sure! Well it was St. Paddy's Day after all!
We all put our hands in the air again for 'AHBL's 'Hoodoo Voodoo' with guitarist Johnson proving - if anyone was ever in any doubt - that he's the perfect foil for Gorham. Explosive solo's from Johnson and Gotham on 'Who Rides The Tiger' - another from 'HF' - was followed by 'Blindsided' - Warwick's acoustic guitar complementing Johnson - this track from 'KI' inevitably ending with yet another stand-out Johnson guitar solo. 'Thinking About You Could Get Me Killed' was the perfect vehicle to show off the talent that is bass guitarist Robbie Crane - its opening bass riff not only driving us down the direction of one of the best tracks off of 'HF' but also validating what an awesome tight unit BSR are. In fact 'Testify Or Say Goodbye' with Gotham effortlessly leading from the front was the last track aired from 'HF' in the set before they ended the night with two tracks from 'AHBL': the familiar opening Celtic drum intro from the excellent DeGrasso on 'Kingdom Of The Lost' - a latter day 'Black Rose', the sing-a-long 'Bound For Glory' - epitomising the glue that Warwick is to BSR in both his presence and vocal power - and finally, for mine, the appropriately named 'Finest Hour', - their stand-out track from 'TKI'. And that was that - as Ricky tweeted after the show "BSR don't do encores Peter never have .. never will.. thank you".
The last time we caught Black Star Riders supporting Def Leppard and Whitesnake at Wembley Arena in December 2015, we made the observation that BSR might still have a bit of an identity problem, but who cares when they play live music of this quality. Well as Warwick pointed out tonight, the guys have now been together for five year's and with three album's and a strong back catalogue under their belt's - don't expect many Lizzy covers on their setlist. If you wanted proof that there is life after Thin Lizzy - then this was it.