|Black Star Riders/Gun/The Amorettes – Belfast, Limelight 1 – 5 March 2017|
|Written by Mark Ashby and The Dark Queen|
|Saturday, 11 March 2017 04:30|
Hometown gigs are always special, especially for any artist who lives thousands of miles from the city where he was born, and so there can be no doubt that the one date Ricky Warwick looks forward to the most on tour schedules – be they those for BSR or his multiple other solo/side projects is his native town of Belfast…
The Amorettes kick off the evening proper in their usual fiery and feisty style, ignoring the limited stage room (and I’m sure they’ve played in a lot more cramped spaces) to hit you straight in the balls – and these three Glasgie lasses have more of them than most of the fellas in the room! ‘Let The Neighbours Call The Cops’ Gill challenges defiantly – and they probably already have, as this rock ‘n’ roll party is already getting out of control, and promising to get even more so before too long! Cajoling the audience to ‘Come And Get It’, and then inviting us to join in their game of ‘White Russian Roulette’, the ladies lay down a brand of r’n’r that possesses punky energy and real rock credentials in the songwriting department, and by the time they quit the stage after their all-too-brief 30 minutes things most definitely are ‘Hot N Heavy’ inside the auditorium.
Kicking off with the gospel intro to ‘Let It Shine’, the lead track from their current album, ‘Frantic’, it is obvious that fellow Glaswegians Gun are in great form, with Dante smiling from ear to ear and new recruit Tommy writhing and swaying like a true guitar-toting hero. The inclusion of their Marmite hit cover ‘Word Up’ as early in the set as the second song may or may not be a mistake – but, fuck it, it Sunday night and we wanna party through tomorrow morning’s hangovers! As if reading our minds, Dante pleads ‘Don’t Say It’s Over’… well, of course it’s not, especially when you’ve got this place absolutely jumping and there’s more to come: yes, ‘Better Days’ are definitely on the way, meaning you can ‘Hold Your Head Up’ with pride!
With the band recently having completed recording of their next studio album, they treat us to a new song, ‘She Knows’, which has an upbeat yet noir-ish Cult vibe to it. Dante is laconic in his crowd interactions, as the band try to cram as many songs as possible into their 40 minute slot, and they rush pell-mell to its conclusion with the one two of ‘Steal Your Fire’ and ‘Shame On You’ before taking a massive gamble, with the complete curveball finale of the Beastie Boys’ ‘(You Gotta) Fight For Your Right (To Party!)’. It’s a brave move, and one which definitely divides the crowd in their reaction, but sums up the celebratory nature of the evening.
Headliners BSR aren’t hanging about either, as we immediately come under sustained ‘Heavy Fire’ as the band rip straight into the epic title track of their new album, before they deliver the ‘Bloodshot’, with its ferocious snap chorus line. ‘The Killer Instinct’ is something which these veteran musos certainly possess in terms of rocking a venue to its rafters, as there’s not a square inch of the place that’s not crammed with hot, sweaty bodies swaying and dancing (where they can find space) and not a voice that is not already singing itself hoarse.
Another thing is for sure: I’m definitely not doing a Jimmy DeGrasso in terms of ‘Dancin’ With The Wrong Girl’, as I’ve got my hips locked around those of The Dark Queen, and the boogie-ing that is going on in our little corner of the bar is definitely threatening to get of the dirty kind! With the set now dominated by songs from the Riders’ three studio albums, it’s quick pop after quick pop, with no relenting in the momentum, as Warwick introduces each song with a beaming grin on his face. He reprises some of the comments from the earlier instore with a short speech about the merits of buying physical shit versus downloads: “I don’t get this craze of people sharing photos of their MP3s,” he comments, adding about showing off a room full of vinyl – “this is MY collection, get an education in rock ‘n’ roll!”.
Damon Johnson makes a decent fist of replicating the female backing vocals on ‘When The Night Comes In’ before they slow things down momentarily with the beautiful ‘Cold War Love’, it’s live portrayal emphasizing why it has become one of my favourite songs on the new album. But, then, just as the set approaches its halfway point, there’s a total change in tempo again as ‘All Hell Breaks Loose’ and the crowd once again sees the glory of the coming of the rock ‘n’ roll party that invariably accompanies a BSR show… and, yes, while still paying homage to the band from which they emerged, especially in their twin guitar harmonics, they are inexorably moving out of the shadow: ironically, I scribble a note to that effect by proving that the boys are indeed back in town! But, despite a small section of the crowd baying for more Lizzy songs, it is the only backwards glance they cast toward their heritage… and bravo say I for one!
After a quick dose of that ‘Hoodoo Voodoo’ and asking ‘Who Rides The Tiger’, Ricky gets personal, talking about his feelings on returning home to Northern Ireland, how his mum slags about his lyrics, Scott Gorham’s familial roots in County Fermanagh and his “bromance” with Johnson. None of this gets him ‘Blindsided’, although he does admit ‘Thinking About You Could Get Me Killed’ as he and the boys rush pell mell towards curfew. A cheeky “hello pop pickers” – a reference to the heavy airplay they have been receiving on a certain radio station – leads to the rabble-rousing ‘Testify Or Say Goodbye’, which threatens to bring the offices upstairs crashing down into the auditorium such is the volume of the accompanying singalong, which briefly drowns out that coming from the band’s towering Marshall stacks.
But, they’re not quite ready to bid farewell (sic) as Warwick takes us to the ‘Kingdom Of The Lost’ with his ebullient celebration of emigres, before ensuring that we are ‘Bound For Glory’ and enjoying ‘Our Finest Hour’. Certainly, in front of this rabid, sold out hometown crowd, Black Star Riders are doing just that.
You know something: fuck the critics (of which I’ll admit to being one)… if you want to enjoy a damn fine rock ‘n’ roll show performed by a damn fine rock ‘n’ roll band who wear their hearts unashamedly on their sleeves and put it out there each and every single night, then drag your arse along to a Black Star Riders show and prepared to be rocked till your socks fall off… Testify, brother Warwick!
PHOTO CREDIT: All photos © The Dark Queen.
The remaining dates on the tour (with Backyard Babies replacing The Amorettes) are as follows:
Saturday 11 March – Leeds, O2 Academy
Sunday 12 March – Manchester O2 Ritz
Tuesday 14 March – Nottingham, Rock City
Wednesday 15 March – Norwich, UEA
Thursday 16 March – Bristol, O2 Academy
Friday 17 March – London, O2 Forum
Saturday 18 March – Birmingham, O2 Institute
Sunday 19 March – Bournemouth – O2 Academy
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