Black Star Riders

BLACK STAR RIDERS ( + THE GLORIA STORY / REDS’ COOL) – Debaser Medis, Stockholm 2013-11-10)

Thin Lizzy! Just to see that name in print puts a smile on my face. I love Thin Lizzy. No, I worship Thin Lizzy. Would it be accurate to state that I think that Thin Lizzy are the best band ever? Sure. But – I must admit that their three first albums, that had Eric Bell as their sole guitar player alongside Philip Lynott (bass, lead vocals) and Brian Downey (drums), never made any impression on me at all. No, Thin Lizzy for me began when guitarists Scott Gorham and Brian Robertson joined. Sure, that line up’s debut Nightlife had its moments, but for the most part it was pretty lame. By the way, Ron Nevison produced that one and what to do you know, the guy did lousy productions even back in 1974. But from Jailbreak (1976) up to their last album Thunder And Lightning (1983), the band only made albums that I consider more or less masterpieces. So, yes, Thin Lizzy are (were?) the best band in the world, but only if I can count Kiss (1974-1977) and Sweet (1974-1977) to that category as well. When Scott Gorham, together with guitarist John Sykes, who played on Lizzy’s last album and keyboardist Darren Wharton, decided to put Thin Lizzy back together again in 1996, voices were raised, calling the members all the bad names in the book, meaning it was sacrilege to play as Lizzy without Philip Lynott. Sykes was handling the lead vocals and he made a great job doing that. But it was never the case to reunite Lizzy for real, this was just to pay tribute to their fantastic music and play those brilliant tunes the best they could to people, like me, who missed Thin Lizzy badly. Also, I discovered Lizzy late, back in 1983, when they had already split up so I welcomed this version with open arms.

The fact that Thin Lizzy now is touring with a new line up that features Ricky Warwick (ex The Almighty) on rhythm guitar and lead vocals, Gorham and Damon Johnson (ex Brother Cane, Alice Cooper) on lead guitars, Marco Mendoza (ex Whitesnake) on bass and Jimmy DeGrasso (ex Y&T, White Lion, Megadeth, Suicidal Tendencies) on drums as Black Star Riders can’t have escaped anyone. They have also recorded a killer new album, All Hell Breaks Loose. They played a great gig at Sweden Rock Festival this summer, but this would be the first time I’d see them in their own majesty as the Black Star Riders. I missed opening act The Glory Story, but managed to make it to the second half of Reds’ Cool’s gig. Reds’ Cool are a Russian band and to be honest, they were pretty good. They had some big Whitesnake 1987 influences, played a tight gig and had a great vocalist. They have a stupid name, but good enough songs to make it. I need to check out their record.

Now, I have seen this tribute Thin Lizzy on numerous times with numerous line ups and they have never made me disappointed and the BSR gig at Sweden Rock was great, so my expectations on these guys are pretty big. I remember when I heard that Gorham & co had chosen Ricky Warwick as their new vocalist and I wondered how on earth that would work out, only remembering the motörmouth from The Almighty. I was never a fan of theirs and frankly I thought they had made a mistake. Well, Ricky blew all my doubts to kingdom come when they played as Thin Lizzy at Sweden Rock last year and this year’s gig at said festival showed a guy who had grown into his new shoes even further. Just like at SRF, they opened up with the title track of their new album, “All Hell Breaks Loose” and a wall of sound hit me. The song is a brilliant opener and when they went right into Lizzy’s “Are You Ready” they had already won this match. “Bloodshot”, Lizzy’s “Bad Reputation”, “Before The War” and “Jailbreak” follows and the band sounds so damn good. It’s tight and I get the feeling that all of the members has a really awesome time up there. “Hoodoo Voodoo” is an ok song on the album, but live it grows into a beast, “Massacre” is an old Lizzy favourite of mine that is played way too seldom so it’s a welcome return for that one,  “Kingdom Of The Lost” brings out the Riders’ celtic side – a side that Lizzy showed a lot and it is perfect in a live environment and “Hey Judas” has the chorus of my dreams, so sticky you could glue wallpaper with it. My Thin Lizzy dreams comes true with “Southbound”, another gem that is rarely played. “Kissin’ The Ground” is an ok song, but it doesn’t really move me, but “Valley Of The Stones” does – a new song with a big Lizzy feel and “Emerald” from Thin Lizzy’s breakthrough album Jailbreak still sends shivers down my spine.

Black Star Riders - Stockholm
Scott Gorham had some problems with his amp which refused to co-operate and while the unintentional intermission took place, the band gave us an rehearsed version of “Someday Salvation” from the new album. I can’t imagine why it’s not in the set, it’s one of the best songs on the new record. However, the problem is quickly solved and Gorham joins in at the end of the song and the band breaks into their hybrid of Whitesnake’s “Guilty Of Love” and Lizzy’s patented twin guitar leads, “Bound For Glory”, a song that deserves to be a big hit and it sure gets the crowd going. But the goosebumps of this evening comes with the next number, my favourite Thin Lizzy song of all times, “Cowboy Song”. It’s a song I wake up to every morning, I use it on my alarm clock, so every time I hear it live I’m in heaven. The set is, of course, closed with “The Boys Are Back In Town”, Thin Lizzy’s biggest hit. The song might has been played to death, but live that doesn’t matter one bit. It kicks ass and the audience goes totally ape over it every time it’s played. No Lizzy or Black Star Riders gig will ever be complete without it. Of course, there will be an encore and when Damon Johnson starts bending out the first notes from “Black Rose” I get my hopes up. “Black Rose” is my second favourite Lizzy song, but unfortunately those notes are false alarm. Instead we get “Whiskey In The Jar”, a brilliant song and BSR does it even better than on the original version. The whole set is closed with “Rosalie”, Thin Lizzy’s Bob Seger cover that gave them their second hit song. I have never really got the greatness of that song, but one can’t deny that it is a major crowd pleaser and perfect as a closing track.

I’m not sure how objective I really am when it comes to thin Lizzy and all Lizzy related stuff, but I thought this gig was damn breathtaking. Damon Johnson is such an underrated guitarist and he and Gorham play so well together, Jimmy DeGrasso has gotten some criticism for being both sterile and dull, but I can’t agree on that for the world. With BSR he’s groovy and does justice to the old songs – and he fits so much better in the band than Tommy Aldridge did. Marco Mendoza is such a heavy and tight player – one of my favourite bass players and Ricky Warwick has grown into a natural frontman, even though he sometimes looks a bit lost without his guitar. But he knows how to works an audience, he looks cool and he sings great. Scott Gorham needs no introduction. The guy has always been an amazing guitarist and his age, he’s 63, hasn’t changed that at all – the guy is a hero. Besides, I got the chance to meet him after the gig and he was a true gentleman, very nice and talked to everyone and posed for photos. I’m usually not starstruck, but hey, to meet Gorham in person was big for me. No, it was huge. I really hope that the Black Star Riders is a permanent band with more records and touring in them. My only “complaint” here is that there were too many Lizzy songs not played, but hey, this wasn’t a Lizzy gig so I just have to wait for that until they come back as Lizzy again – because they will. If they play in your city, don’t miss!

Jon Wilmenius (9/10)


1. All Hell Breaks Loose
2. Are you Ready
3. Bloodshot
4. Bad Reputation
5. Before The War
6. Jailbreak
7. Hoodoo Voodoo8. Massacre
9. Kingdom Of The Lost
10. Hey Judas
11. Southbound
12. Kissin’ The Ground
13. Valley Of The Stones
14. Emerald
15. Sometimes Salvation
16. Bound For Glory
17. Cowboy Song
18. The Boys Are Back In Town

19. Whiskey In The Jar
20. Rosalie

4 comments on “BLACK STAR RIDERS ( + THE GLORIA STORY / REDS’ COOL) – Debaser Medis, Stockholm 2013-11-10)

  1. Wow, what a set. Great mix of BSR songs and TL. Kingdom of the Lost…Judas…Bound For Glory…these songs all fit in. And I’m glad they still play a healthy dose of Thin Lizzy songs even though they don’t use the name Thin Lizzy anymore (and I’m fine with that too).

    I saw the pic of you and Gorham…amazing!!!

    • Talked to Damon Johnson as well. Told him I have Brother Cane’s debut album and that “Got No Shame” was on our partylist. He was pretty amazed by the fact that anbody in Sweden even new who Brother Cane even were. He was also a real nice guy and so was Marco Mendoza. My brother and his wife knows him a bit and he’s really down to earth and really sweet.

      Btw, if you haven’t heard the Brother Cane album, you really should check it out. Brilliant album.

      • Oh fear not, I have this album. My buddy T-Rev prefers the second one, but I kind of prefer to basics of the first one.

        Saw Damon with Alice Cooper in 2006. My wife kept staring at him… 🙂

      • The second album, Seeds, was too grunge. I don’t like that one at all. But I love the groovy 70’s based hard rock n roll on the first album. It’s really superior to Seeds.

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