Words & Photos David McEneaney.
Anyone who has any interest in hard rock should and probably does know the name Ricky Warwick. If you don’t, it’s time you go take a listen to some of his stuff. It doesn’t really matter where you start with his extensive back catalogue, because as far as I’m concerned anything he’s involved with is at least worth a listen and at best some of the genres top stuff.
While emerging from the most recent line-up of Thin Lizzy, Black Star Riders have quickly evolved into their own thing completely since their creation in 2012.
Although you can hear the foundations of Lizzy vocal melodies and bass/guitar riffs forming the distant undercurrent of the sound, this is built on by everything you would want from a pure, real, old school hard rock band and has absolutely become its own beast entirely.
Under their current lineup of Ricky Warwick, Sam Wood (who was playing his first gig with the band at the start of their tour), Robbie Crane and Zak St John, the band have created a perfect unison of thumping drums, driving bass and two guitars seemingly competing with each other and trading riffs and solos back and forth like a hive mind, all topped off by Warwick’s distinctive voice, booming over the music, and crowd, with a snarl on his face as if to say ‘this is my f**king stage’.
As soon as the band walked out and ‘Pay Dirt’ began (and Warwick held up his guitar which said ‘Belfast’ on it) the crowd went absolutely apesh*t.
You could see that the guys on stage were feeding off of this raw energy, moving around so much my autofocus was about to give up on me and my camera run away screaming.
They moved seamlessly from song to song, not letting up for a second until finally stopping around ‘When the Night Comes In’ to say hello.
They seemed genuinely delighted to be there and very excited about starting their tour and the jam packed venue showed that their loyal fans were more than happy to have them.
When ‘Crazy Horses’ ended and my eardrums felt like there might actually be a second to take a break, Warwick announced that they were to be joined on stage by former guitarist Scott Gorham for ‘All Hell Breaks Loose’ who’s extra guitar seemed to bring the sound to the point of ‘structurally unsound’ for the building itself and living up to the songs title at the same time.
He hung around for a few songs and then, to my surprise, after everyone’s throats were broken singing along to ‘Soldierstown’ the band started into one of my favourite Thin Lizzy songs ‘Don’t Believe a Word’ and I didn’t believe my ears…(sorry)
It was a perfect version (and by that I mean heavy as f**k) with Warwick channelling Phil Lynott while at the same time doing what he does best, being Ricky Warwick.
While this band changes members more regularly than most, they always manage to keep the same fundamentals. Loud, hard, heavy rock music played by musicians who are on top of their game and still love what they’re doing, which in this day is a genuine rarity, putting on a genuinely stadium level show no matter where they go, fronted by one of the most interesting frontmen still in existence in rock music. These types of bands are sadly becoming more and more a dying breed, but every time I see one of these gigs and the size and enthusiasm of the crowd, my faith is always restored and I feel like this type of music will never die.
At least while the likes of Ricky Warwick have a microphone anyway…
If you get a chance and they are playing anywhere near you, I’d highly recommend you try to catch them while you can.
Who knows if they’ll be back, or who will be back with them next time.
Another State of Grace
Better Than Saturday Night
When the Night Comes In
Riding Out the Storm
Wrong Side of Paradise
Crazy Horses (The Osmonds cover)
All Hell Breaks Loose
Don’t Believe a Word (Thin Lizzy cover)
The Killer Instinct
Before the War
Testify or Say Goodbye
Tonight The Moonlight
Kingdom of the Lost
Bound For Glory
Jailbreak (Thin Lizzy cover)
Live Review: Black Star Riders 10th Anniversary Tour – Limelight 1, Belfast 11.02.2023
Words & Photos David McEneaney.