Live Review: Black Star Riders / Michael Monroe / Phil Campbell And The Bastard Sons – O2 Academy, Leeds 19.02.2023

Phil Pountney

Leeds, tonight we were in the hands of Rock Royalty, tonight it was time for the Black Star Riders with none other than Michael Monroe and Phil Campbell and his Bastard Sons in tow.

As Phil Campbell and his Bastard sons took to the stage in front of a huge banner depicting their name, the noise which came from the crowd to greet them was nearly as impressive. Judging from the shirts on show in the crowd, many were hear to reminisce on the Motorhead years, yet the Campbell tunes which were belted out from the stage were lapped up and absorbed by each and every body within the academy as if they were huge anthems with years of stature behind them. ‘We’re The Bastards’ got the ball rolling, and by rolling I mean with a gargantuan shove of the highest order. The vocals were spat out from the stage with venom and impressive passion while the drum and string work were feisty and gutsy, each vocal was delivered with energy and true commitment. As the set progressed with the likes of ‘Get On Your Knees’ and ‘Freak Show’ each song was given the appreciation and love by the crowd that they so rightly deserved. That being said though, the biggest reactions from the rocking Academy tonight were saved for the Motorhead classics, ‘Born To Raise Hell’ and ‘Ace Of Spades’ with the latter being delivered and received with true passion and appetite, a spectacle which was impressive beyond belief. 

Up next was the enigmatic and charismatic Michael Monroe and from the opening chords of ‘Six Feet In The Ground’ we were well aware of what we were in store for, good old Rock and Roll which was to be belted out with gusto and flair. Michael was obviously very up for this gig, covering every inch of the stage with animated and flamboyant style and panache. ‘I Live Too Fast To Die Young’ was particularly colourful and ‘Malibu Beach Nightmare’ was solid and heavily, laden with guitar leads which only seemed to propel Monroe’s vocals to a higher echelon. The infancy of the set was punctuated with Michael getting up close and personal with the Leeds faithful, balancing himself on the barrier at one point, secured in place by a single arm from a front row resident, and then perched on top of structures at the front of the stage much to the annoyance of security, even causing the band to stop mid song to relay the unimpressed thoughts to the frontman. As the set closed out with ‘Dead, Jail Or Rock ‘N’ Roll’ this could be chalked up as a triumph for Monroe and his cohort of rockers, an enigmatic set performed with vigour and vitality and most definitely the ideal warm up for what was yet to come. 

As we were warmed up by a compere which I didn’t really understand why he was there, other than to attempt to get the crowd hyped for Black Star Riders (BSR) I stood with a feeling that the anticipation in the air was well and truly palpable, and with good grounds too as the stage was about to be hit hard by Ricky Warwick and the rest of the Riders. ‘Pay Dirt’ was unleashed and the whole place erupted, measured and calculated carnage, a true Rock and Roll show then followed. Warwick’s vocals were on point throughout the whole set, dispatched with passion and pride, the joy permanently etched on his face throughout. The strings of Woods guitar teamed up perfectly with Warwicks and they both worked in pure harmony and unity while Crane provided the perfect backbone courtesy of the bulkier strings. Several cover versions found there way into the set, the Osmond’s classic ‘Crazy Horses’ along with the dual attack of Thin Lizzy landmarks ‘Jailbreak’ and ‘Don’t Believe A Word’, both presented to the gathered with true hunger and lust. With each track that was conveyed to the ever increasing volume produced by the devoted rockers in the crowd, the momentum and impetus just seemed to be increasing tenfold with each moment that passed until it reached its climax with the set closer ‘Finest Hour’ with which it was a genuine visual and audible show of mutual appreciation between the rock stars and the rock fans alike. 

This was a true exhibition of how Hard Rock is played and received, just good honest fun, and I for one would love to see a lot more of it.  

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