The great, much overlooked and suddenly much appreciated wonderfulness that is the remarkable THIN LIZZY. There has been a bunch of online banter over the years that when Scott Gorham reactivated the Lizzy brand, whether or not it should have been done or not. Yes, we all know that Phil Lynott is gone and 2011 marks the 25th anniversary of his passing and I for one was thrilled when Gorham, Brian Downey, Darren Wharton & John Sykes first went out in the mid to late '90's and once again raised the Lizzy flag for all to bask in the greatness of Philo's masterful works. I was too young to have been able to have seen the "real" Thin Lizzy of the '70's for their final trek over here to the US, so I always thought it was awesome to be able to actually see some of the people that actually made those amazing recordings, with or without Phil. It's the songs that need to never be forgotten!
2011 finds a re-tinkered Thin Lizzy Lineup featuring of course, The Legendary Guitar God, Scott Gorham, the return of original Thin Lizzy drummer, the one and only Brian Downey, Lizzy keys player, Darren Wharton, former Dio Guitar God in his own right, Vivian Campbell (a lifelong Lizzy fan) bassist from the original Lizzy re-launch, Marco Mendoza and new singer/frontman Ricky Warwick from the UK band The Almighty. Now even I, a massive Lizzy fan was a bit nervous of this new lineup. Gone was the flashy and virtuoso styling's of guitar and vocals of John Sykes, which would be big shoes to fill, but at the same time I had confidence in Gorham and what he was putting together.
Friday night in New York City, with a ¾ filled Best Buy Theater in the heart of Times Square, comes the newest version of Thin Lizzy. Re-tooled and more stream lined to the "Live & Dangerous" era Lizzy, NYC is crushed with the thunderous opening notes to notorious Lizzy set opener, Are You Ready. Newcomer, Ricky Warwick looks primed, ready and excited to set the mood for the hungry NYC Lizzy faithful as they roll right into the Black Rose classic, Waiting For An Alibi. Warwick sounds good but isn't trying to sound like Phil, vocally, which is sort of a good thing but Lynott's unmistakable cadence is slightly missed. Next up is the 1976 classic, Jailbreak, where it becomes evident that Vivian Campbell was a great twin lead guitar choice as he completely channels his inner Brian "Robbo" Robertson throughout this set pulling out mostly note for note reincarnations of Robbo's unmistakable wah-wah laden, Bluesy runs.
A surprise in the set was Do Anything You Want To Do, another great tune from 1979's Black Rose (that features incredible guitar work from Gary Moore!!) complete with the Gorham, Campbell, Warwick and Mendoza all pounding floor tom drums ala the actual video for the song from '79. A pretty cool idea and something very much NOT expected. YouTube the original video kids!! Pretty funny stuff. Having Brian Downey back in the band completely adds a dimension that was lost once he retired from the band some years ago. Downey has this "swing" to his drumming that is undeniable and adds an authenticity that is just so needed. The highlight of the night for me was seeing another unexpected song, Wild One from 1975's Fighting (my personal favorite album!). Being witness to the most gorgeous harmony guitar lead was just pure magic. This was a great night for all.
Gorham was in great form and looked so appreciative of the almost full room and his playing was spot on. His solo in the always crowd favorite, Dancing in the Moonlight was note for note perfect from the Live & Dangerous record and one of the great highlights for the night. But where were the Saxophone lines? Keyboard player Darren Wharton didn't chime in with them and neither did Viv and that was something that was missing in that classic!! Another highlight was the much anticipated solo in Still In Love With You. First recorded by Gary Moore on the Night Life album in '74 and then immortalized by Brian Robertson on '78's, Live & Dangerous and then once again brilliantly done by John Sykes on the final Thin Lizzy live album Life, there are some pretty big shoes to have to step into, but enter Vivian Campbell. Viv simply nailed it! Playing it down the middle as a combination of Gary's and Robbo's versions, Viv tore it up, electrifying the crowd and the crowd let him know of their approval.
Ricky Warwick was the piece of this new Thin Lizzy puzzle that everyone was really awaiting to see. How would he pull off singing Phil's vocals? How is he going to incorporate a 3rd guitar into the mix? Does he sound anything like Phil? In a nutshell, Warwick did a very honorable job, not trying to replicate Lynott but being very respectful. He sang the tunes like himself but being an Irishman himself, you couldn't help but hear a little Philo in there. Warwick did suffer from a rather poor vocal mix which didn't help out the crowd to hear him as clearly as one would have liked but the gist was gotten. Warwick had a guitar strapped to him for 95% of the evening, strumming in rhythms on both electric and acoustic guitars and enjoying the hell out of himself singing songs from his self proclaimed favorite band in the world.
What was missing? To be honest what was missing was the element of a Rock Star. That is something that John Sykes brought to the table. Warwick did a fine job of singing but isn't much of a frontman that commands your attention. And Vivian Campbell, for however amazing his guitar playing was, he stayed to back of the stage much of the night only coming forward to chip in his backing vocals or to click on the wah wah pedal. This I found to be a bit odd, as I know Viv was originally disappointed that he didn't get the original Lizzy gig back in 1982 when Sykes did! I expected him to be a bit more upfront and not so much in the background, but his playing was quite excellent so, there ya go.
This was a great show to have been a part of. Lizzy ripped through 18 classics and left the crowd wanting more. It was pretty cool to hear Whiskey in the Jar thrown in, but for me I would have rather had a song like Opium Trail or Bad Reputation in the set instead, but that being said this was a great return for Thin Lizzy in NYC. Remember folks, this is about celebrating the legacy of Philip Parris Lynott and his band that gave us all countless songs that should be played and remembered by generations to come. If Lizzy is rolling into your town or anywhere close to you, do yourself a favor and go. You will be glad that you did!
Photographs by Pete Pardo
Are You Ready
Waiting For An Alibi
Do Anything You Want To Do
Don't Believe A Word
Dancing in the Moonlight
Angel of Death
Still in Love With You
Whiskey in the Jar
Sha La La
Boys Are Back In Town
Killer on the Loose
Black Rose (Dedicated to Gary Moore)