Black Star Riders & Europe - Bristol 02 Academy
It was that time again, the final countdown, because the boys were back in town!
Monday, March 16th saw The Amorettes, Black Star Riders, and Europe take to the stage at Bristol's 02 Academy for what I can only describe as a ‘kick-ass night of rock music’. Cliche, eh?
First up on the stage, The Amorettes. A three-piece rock band hailing from Scotland, the group is made up of Gill Montgomery, and sisters Heather and Hannah McKay. These girls are armed with the usual Scottish charisma that can get a room bouncing. I've been lucky enough to catch this band three times in a short space of time and it's fair to say that each time they play, they get that bit better. Though an early start, the set was thoroughly enjoyable, packed with songs that the majority of the crowd were already familiar with and by the end of the set everyone got chatting to share positive comments. A class act with a very bright future ahead of them.
Time for a quick break between stage set-ups ... it was time to grab a drink whilst everyone anticipated Black Star Riders taking their place.
Black Start Riders is a young band with a lot of history. Rising from the ashes of legendary rock band, Thin Lizzy, guitar player and all-round nice guy Scott Gorham, together with Ricky Warwick (The Almighty), Damon Johnson (Alice Cooper, Brother Cane), Robbie Crane (RATT), and Jimmy DeGrasso (Megadeth, Suicidal Tendencies), form this already thriving band that never fail to put on a fantastic live performance. The year 2013 saw the band transition from Thin Lizzy to the now highly-rated Black Star Riders alias. The name change was regarded as ‘the next step in the evolution of the Thin Lizzy story’ and the ever-enthusiastic fan-base that the band has developed from its first release, All Hell Break Loose, perfectly highlights that statement. With such a hard-hitting initial album and plans to head in a less 'Lizzy' direction, Black Star Riders set themselves a herculean task to better the success of All Hell Breaks Loose in the form of second album, The Killer Instinct, but nevertheless, they've managed to produce an album that allows them to be the powerhouse live band that their fan base loves so dearly, whilst matching the musicianship and likability of All Hell Break Loose.
Opening with 'Bound For Glory' and followed by 'Jailbreak', it was a sure sign of what was to be a fantastic passion-filled performance built upon a level foundation of All Hell Breaks Loose, The Killer Instinct, and a fitting selection of much loved Lizzy material including surprisingly placed mid-set crowd pleasers 'The Boys Are Back In Town' and 'Are You Ready'. Though very impressed with this particular song, I was slightly surprised to see that recent radio favourite, 'Finest Hour', seemed to go down as well as the bulk of classic Lizzy tracks. However, with a refreshing mix of both young and mature fans, it probably should have been expected It's a fantastic track.
Though Black Star Riders aimed to move away from the typical Thin Lizzy sound, they demonstrated that they could immaculately emulate the atmosphere and sound of the legend rockers as they perform a stellar version of 'Emerald'. The combination of duelling guitars singing in harmony from Gorham and Johnson, accompanied with Warwick's rough and ready vocals is a match made in hard rock heaven. Closing with 'Whiskey In The Jar' was a fitting final seal to what I would call a first class display of power-house musicianship and stage presence from the guys of Black Star Riders.
Having seen Europe at Steelhouse Festival 2014, I was looking forward to a similar scenario at the 02 Academy ... glistening clean vocals, phenomenal musicianship and a balanced variety of newer material, and of course, Europe classics (yes, even ‘The Final Countdown’). Though I'm fond of Europe, I've been mentally wrestling with the sounds of the new album for some time now and though it's a well-written, exciting album, I wasn't sure how it would play out on stage. Unsurprisingly, they did a pretty great job of keeping the crowd in strong spirits with their usual impressive stage presence and visible love for what they do. The set had a generous mix of older and recent material but perhaps not the best set to hold a crowd that had just witnessed the dominating performance by Black Star Riders. John Norum (lead guitar) never fails to impress and for me, made Europe's set a good one. A very underrated guitarist that has the ability to own the stage and work the guitar into a range of rock driven styles, this show was no exception and I can safely say that Norum's guitar playing did a fantastic job of impressing on this occasion. We're still in awe of the moves Joey can bust on that mic stand though ... and that smile, right?! A band that continues to explore the possibilities and a band that still has a lot left in them!
A really fantastic show that was worth every penny, and more. Rock is very much alive and kicking in the UK!
Photo Credit: Dalila Kriheli
Review by: Christiane Robinson