A Updated
BSR Ricky and Sam
Ricky warwick BSR 2023
Scott Gorham BSR 2023
Phil C joins BSRs
Michael Monroe joins Phil C
Michael Monroe joins BSRs
Michael Monroe band
Michael Monroe 2023

All three bands onstage tonight maintained a spirit of co-operation in a single endeavour that you don’t always see in the same band, never mind right across the bill

London: Shepherd’s Bush Empire – 26 February 2023

All of the bands tonight have their roots in the original line-ups of legendary bands and yet have gone on and built their own fine legacies in their own right. Of course, the original bands have extensive followings and fans expect to hear some of the old original band classics. In each case these were, unconventionally, in the minority and yet, from the smiles in the crowd throughout, no one felt short-changed. I was slightly surprised not to hear ‘The Boys Are Back In Town’ but did not hear anyone mention it or even notice apart from myself, and that has to be a victory in itself.

Phil Campbell was on first. We missed Todd Campbell and I had no idea why he did not play tonight, however certainly the addition of fine singer Joel Peters has, I feel, raised their game, making it obvious they are not attempting to be a Lemmy soundalike band. Reverence has its place and the early appearance of ‘Going To Brazil’, the mid set ‘Born To Raise Hell’ and finale ‘Ace Of Spades’ ticked that box, but the band’s ambitions clearly lie with the rest of the set and the new material. Watching them, there’s no doubt they can do the biker, headbanging, loud and fast stuff, but also the larger range of the vocals and the Bluesier material like ‘Dark Days’ made me think at times of bands like Alice In Chains and Stone Temple Pilots. Personally, I appreciate the diversification of material which makes the band more interesting. Also, fantastic to see Michael Monroe join the band for ‘Born To Raise Hell’, even if he had to reign himself in so as not to completely overtake proceedings, being the blonde bombshell he is.
He’s onstage as the centre of attention soon enough. It’s a short set for him as main support. About fifty percent of the set list was from the Michael Monroe band’s studio albums, including the iconic ‘Dead, Jail, Or Rock ‘n’ Roll’. The obligatory Demolition 23 track ‘Nothing’s Alright’ was mid-set. The band has recently started doing more Hanoi Rocks numbers to coincide with the re-mixed re-release of ‘Oriental Beat’ (the original band not being happy with the production on the original studio recording). So, as well as ‘Malibu Beach Nightmare’ which the band has pretty much always played, we got three more of the better known Hanoi Rocks numbers, ‘Don’t You Ever Leave Me’, ‘Motorvatin’’ and the finale and Creedence Clearwater Revival cover ‘Up Around The Bend’ that the band always made their own.
However, whatever song he is doing Monroe gives his all, frequently on the barrier, constantly engaging with the crowd, never standing still. He celebrated his sixtieth birthday recently and shows no signs of slowing. I understand from road crew that security told Monroe not to climb on the PA or theatre infrastructure, so there were few death defying moves tonight, but he made up for that with pogoing and splits. I think with his striking looks, lithe frame and stunning wardrobe, people would stare at him if he didn’t move or open his mouth, but the effect of it all is transfixing. Indeed, Ricky Warwick paid tribute to him during the Black Star Riders set, explaining it was a dream come true to share a stage with the legendary frontman, while being careful to honour Phil Campbell too.
I always think of Ricky Warwick as the sort of man who would have been a leader in the Stone Age. An epitome of masculinity, while being women and children friendly, with impeccable principles and quietly achieving without threatening other Alpha men by trumpeting those achievements. Courageous enough to go over the parapet and risk his ego by inviting the Michael Monroe band to support, and then not being blown off stage by delivering something different and honouring the Thin Lizzy legacy while growing the Black Star Riders band. He even got away with not playing ‘The Boys Are Back In Town’. Eminently likeable, he makes it look easy and manages to showcase legendary Lizzy guitarist Scott Gorham without any form of ego competition. The only Lizzy songs were a mid-set ‘Don’t Believe A Word’ and penultimate track ‘Jailbreak’. Gorham looked happy and relaxed and delivered solos that cut through the air with his fabulous tone and skill. Finishing with ‘Finest Hour’ showed a confidence in what Black Star Riders are doing now and the audience were completely down with that.
A mid-set appearance of The Osmonds’ cover ‘Crazy Horses’ showed a bit of humour. With the addition of smiley Sam Wood the band continues to have a relaxed collegiate vibe. Wood never stands still, working the stage and clearly loved sharing the stage with Gorham. I mean who wouldn’t love that! Wood’s vibration is usually high, but he was especially beaming tonight and played his heart out. Things were kept even more interesting with the appearance of Phil Campbell on ‘Don’t Believe A Word’ and Michael Monroe on ‘Tonight The Moonlight Let Me Down’. One of the reasons why the Black Star Riders’ material stands up to the Lizzy classics is that Warwick’s songwriting naturally aligns with the Lizzy heritage and is, probably, not unlike what Phil Lynott would be doing today had he been alive.
An all-star line up with obviously friendly links led to a great vibe tonight. A guy who had never seen the Michael Monroe band before came up to me afterwards, almost speechless, to try to explain to me how wonderful he thought the performances were. With Rock music falling into silos these days, it was great of Black Star Riders to have the vision to do something a bit different, rather than having three very similar bands on the bill. No doubt some old Thin Lizzy/Black Star Riders fan are now committed Michael Monroe fans and vice versa.

All three bands onstage tonight maintained a spirit of co-operation in a single endeavour that you don’t always see in the same band, never mind right across the bill, and did themselves huge amounts of credit in the process. Pretty much all the members of the bands went to the after show party, showing the self-effacing, happy, but unbelievably talented and high vibe ship that Ricky Warwick captained tonight. Everybody felt part of the team, appreciated and given a chance to shine, and it showed.

Dawn Osborne

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