Last In Line/NI Music Awards – Belfast, Mandela Hall – 11 November 2017 Print E-mail
Written by Marc Leach   
Monday, 13 November 2017 04:40

What can I say about the country of Ireland as a whole (both North and South) other than the fact that the greatest bands and musicians have come from this land? From legendary names like Thin Lizzy, Stiff Little Fingers and Rory Gallagher, to names like Sweet Savage, The Answer and And So I Watch You From Afar… all have come from the Emerald Isle; so it’s fitting that every year the Oh Yeah Centre in Belfast pays special recognition to said legends. So, who got recognised for this year’s legend award? Well it’s none other than guitar maestro Mr. Vivian Campbell himself.




Now, good reader you would think that it would just be the Def Leppard/Dio/Whitesnake gunslinger getting handed an award, say a few words of thanks and then walk off stage but this wasn’t the case, as Vivian brought some friends with him: yes, he brought none other than his band Last In Line for a special one-off 2017 Irish show. Of course, you had to keep in mind, this was still the annual Oh Yeah Music awards ceremony, so all the lovers of the headline band’s legacy had to put up with things like local Indie artist Joshua Burnside winning the Oh Yeah ‘Best Album Of 2017’ award. While I personally would have liked to see members from Viv’s first band Sweet Savage present the award to their old friend, the long-haired Mike Edgar from the BBC gave a fantastic speech that covered the guitarist’s history, from growing up just outside Lisburn (my hometown) to the long resume of acts the artist has performed with over his active career.


With the award representing Viv’s guitar gear, a mini Les Paul resting against an Engl amplifier, the man of the hour bound onto the stage beaming from ear to ear as he received his award and joined fellow local legends like The Undertones, Terri Hooley and Therapy? in the honour. Taking the time to thank all of his family, friends and band mates over the years, to paying tribute to those he has lost over the years - from fellow band mates like Trev Flemming (Sweet Savage) and Jimmy Bain (Dio), to his dad and, of course, two of his biggest influences: Phil Lynott and Gary Moore. Viv’s speech may have been short and sweet, but it hit the hearts of everyone in the hall who have watched this curly haired shredder grow and grow.




After a quick run off stage it was time for the moment every rocker present had really been waiting for, the return of Last In Line.


Now, the last time I saw this band was the first time they went on tour back in 2013, when there were more original Dio members in the group: but since then the line-up has changed, from Erik Norlander taking over on keyboards to Phil Soussan taking over on bass following Jimmy Bain’s passing in 2016.


Kicking off their set with such Dio classics like ‘Stand Up And Shout’ to the original ‘Devil In Me,’ I personally was completely blown away by how this band have come along since that first time. Lead vocalist Andrew Freeman is not Ronnie James Dio but, by god, does that man have both an outstanding set of pipes and a large collection of energy as he leads the Belfast audience into an all-out frenzy. Pounding away on the kit is none other than the legendary Vinny Appice, who just looked thrilled to be there as he shook the earth on his simple drum set up. But, of course, it was refreshing to see Viv not be ‘Vivian Campbell, the guitarist for Def Leppard’ but be the Vivian Campbell we all know and love as he tore his signature black Les Paul to shreds with his technical solos. While tracks off their debut album under the Last In Line name ‘Heavy Crown’ may have went a little over people’s heads, it was such classics like ‘Holy Diver’ and ‘The Last In Line’ where Freeman spent less time on the microphone as the Belfast crowd jumped on the tiger with both their horns and their voices raised.




While the banter between songs may have been minimal, Freeman took the time to both poke fun at how Viv speaks (the hybrid of Northern Irish and American accents) to showing his support for all the work that the Oh Yeah Centre has done for local musicians, wishing there were places like that when he was a kid. But the reason why the banter was so short was because both the band and the crowd just wanted to rock and that was what they did, with again such classics as ‘Rainbow In The Dark’ to ‘We Rock’ brought this mighty rock show, that went on way past midnight, to a full close.


This was indeed a truly special night for everyone in attendance as the rock gods themselves shined upon the city of Belfast in praise for their disciples of the gospel of rock. Say what you want about ‘legend’ awards but there is no one that deserves the status of ‘legend’ more than Vivian Campbell, I just hope somewhere Ronnie is sitting on his throne, throwing his horns up in approval for the person he had the rockiest relationship with.


PHOTO CREDIT: All photos © Marc Leach/ Über Rock. You can view our full gallery of photographs HERE.


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