Black Star Riders
Feature by Maggie Wright @metalmaggieuk
When Black Star Riders take the stage, there is a rare form of excitement that flows through the room. There might be many Thin Lizzy shirts being worn, but the crowd is in no doubt that it is BSR performing.
It isn't the monochromatic clothing, nor the dual smoke plumes announcing their entry; it is the electricity that these guys create when they are on stage together.
BSR is a relatively young band; in the fact that they formed in 2012, a mere five years ago. Yet individually they amass a staggering amount of experience and discography. Whether you first heard of Ricky Warwick (vocals) when he was with The Almighty or from his backing vocals with Def Leppard, or Damon Johnson (guitars,) from Alice Cooper, it’s the fraternity that these two have created with Scott Gorham (guitars) of Thin Lizzy that made them household names.
From that union, BSR was created, and despite a couple line-up changes, the talent of the core three remain solidly grounded.
“Heavy Fire”, their third and by far most successful album, was released in February, 2017. I was lucky enough to get tickets for the pre-tour gig, offered to fans for a mere £10, held at the historic Slade Rooms in Wolverhampton, with excellent support from Stone Broken. Fans were given the opportunity to select six songs from “Heavy Fire” for the set list, an unprecedented amount of new songs to be played from the very start of a tour, with the rest of the set list made up of songs chosen by the band.
This sold out show was a real unique opportunity for both the fans and BSR and it was a real privilege to experience it.
By the time BSR came to Rock City, Nottingham on the 14th of March, they were on their tenth date of a fifteen date tour of the UK, supported by Scottish rock band Gun and Swedish punk rockers, Backyard Babies. Gun put on a great warm up set, with many of the fans recognizing their songs, yet their set list left much to be desired in my opinion.
Their cover of Cameo’s Word Up may have been popular when they first performed it, but now it seems out dated and hardly motivated the crowd. Performing one new song, She Knows, it did nothing to make me look forward to their upcoming album.
Backyard Babies really fired up the room, and were superb. The Swedish punk rock band had the crowd totally transfixed, playing songs from six of their seven studio albums. The difference they made to the atmosphere on the night was huge, and there was a definite buzz around the venue when they left the stage.
BSR kicked off their set with the title track from the new album, inciting a deafening roar from the crowd. For me there is a magic between Warwick, Johnson and Gorham.
They genuinely love the band and love performing, and just as importantly they love their fans. And their fans love them. Despite the barrier separating the crowd from the stage, there was no barrier separating the band from the fans, and it was amazing to watch. They have found a way to bring the best of old school rock and make it sound current and fresh.
Warwick’s voice is so unique, and so powerful, it can take me back to my high school days one moment, bring me to tears another, and have me shouting my head off the next. It’s also a really credit to the song writing collaboration within BSR, and the relationship they have with producer Nick Raskulinecz and their label Nuclear Blast.
They’ve managed to combine the guitar elements of Thin Lizzy, great melodies and harmonies, and deliver a sound all their own. Dancing with the Wrong Girl is a perfect example. Jimmy De Grasso (drums) was so powerful on this song, and the duel guitars were sweet! To see it live… the fun that they were having on stage performing… it was totally contagious!
The Boys are Back in Town, the token Thin Lizzy song (which to be honest I think there would be riots if at least one song wasn’t included in their set!) came perfectly mid-set and received a phenomenal response, proving that the oldies are still goodies!
In total, BSR played seven songs off the new album, something I have never seen a band do in an opening tour, ever. One of my favorite tracks off “Heavy Fire”, Who Rides the Tiger, was absolutely superb live, with an outrageous guitar solo by Gorham that was literally jaw dropping.
Johnson was equally mesmerizing and the two together are like an air guitarists wet dream. Robert Crane (bass) really stood out on Thinking of You Could Get Me Killed, and seems to be a superb replacement for Marco Mendoza.
I could not imagine a night with BSR ending without Bound for Glory and Finest Hour, two anthemic songs that seem to epitomise the mantra of this band, and have you leave the venue on a real high. Yes, Thin Lizzy is at the very core, but the substance is all Black Star Riders. Nothing wrong with having the best of both worlds!
Note: Black Star Riders have had a couple of line up changes since their inception. Bassist Marco Mendoza recently left to collaborate with The Dead Daisies and his solo work. Robert Crane stepped in and was a part of the new album. Jimmy De Grasso (drummer) left after the UK tour, and a new drummer has yet to be announced.
Black Star Riders is:
Ricky Warwick - Vocals/Guitar
Scott Gorham - Guitars
Damon Johnson - Guitars
Robert Crane - Bass
For more information, visit:
Setlist from Rock City, Nottingham:
The Killer Instinct
Dancing With the Wrong Girl
When the Night Come In
Cold War Love
All Hell Breaks Loose
The Boys Are Back In Town (Thin Lizzy Cover)
Who Rides the Tiger
Thinking About You Could Get Me Killed
Testify or Say Goodbye
Kingdom of the Lost
Bound For Glory
“HEAVY FIRE” out worldwide via Nuclear Blast Entertainment Purchase CD / vinyl, download and stream the album at
Upcoming Tour dates:
May 24*, Wednesday Dusseldorf, Germany - Mitsubishi-Electric Hall
May25*, Thursday Frankfurt, Germany - Jahrhunderthalle
May 27, SaturdayJelling, Denmark - Jelling Festival
May 28*, Sunday Berlin, Germany -Tempodrome
May 29*, Monday Dresden, Germany - Junge Garde
May 30*,Tuesday Leipzig, Germany - Parkbuhne
May 31, Wednesday Nuremberg,Germany – Hirsch
June 1, Thursday Leiden, Holland - Nobel
June 2*, Friday Rostock, Germany - Messehalle
June 3*, Saturday Hamburg, Germany - Mehr Theater
June 5, Monday Gothenburg, Sweden - Pustervik
June 7, Wednesday Solvesborg, Sweden - Sweden Rock Festival
June 10, Saturday Twistringen, Germany - Ziegelei Open Air
June 16, Friday Dessel, Belgium - Graspop Festival
June 17, Saturday Nickelsdorf, Austria - Nova Rock Festival
June 18, Sunday Clisson, France – Hellfest
June 21, Wednesday Freiburg, Germany - Jazzhouse
June 23, Friday Copenhagen, Denmark - Copenhell Festival
June 24, Saturday Fredrikstag, Norway - Tons of Rock Festival
June 25, Sunday Hinwil, Switzerland - Rock the Ring Festival
July 2, Sunday Barcelona, Spain - Barcelona RockFest 2017
July 8, Saturday Weert, Holland - Bospop Festival
July 23, Sunday Stuttgart, Germany - Winterbach Festival
July 29, Saturday Maidstone, U.K. - Ramblin’ Man Fair
For tickets: www.myticket.de/black-star-riders-tickets
When The Night Comes In - OFFICIAL LYRIC VIDEO:
Testify Or Say Goodbye - OFFICIAL VIDEO:
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