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ConcertsEurope, Black Star Riders: Glasgow ABC March 5th 2015

Posted on Saturday, March 07 2015 @ 15:10:47 CST by Steven Reid
Heavy Metal

Europe have been regulars on the UK touring circuit in recent years, in fact so much so that this is their fifth visit to Glasgow in as many years. However for Black Star Riders - the band formerly known as Thin Lizzy - amazingly this was their first show on Scottish soil. Hence with many excited at the prospect of witnessing Scott Gorham and his new(ish) boys for the first time, not only was the audience in attendance bright and early, they were, in truth, possibly less people interested in the closing act than the appetite whetters…

However thanks to the simply ludicrous early curfew for tonight's show - so a "club night" could be squeezed in after the gig (thanks ABC!) - The Amorettes were, believe it or not, on and off stage before 7pm. And with the fact that not everyone lives in the centre of Glasgow (or even particularly near Glasgow, in my case), that meant that the trio of ladies who make up the band and who are making quite a name for themselves in the process, had done their stuff long before I even set foot in the venue. Thankfully we just made the 7.10pm start for the Black Star Riders set, and what a set it would proved to be. After working his way through a whole host of configurations in the reinvented Thin Lizzy, it was the introduction of ex-The Almighty frontman Ricky Warwick which finally motivated half of one of the most successful guitar pairings in the history of Rock to record new music. With Black Star Riders, the pair, flanked by guitarist Damon Johnson (Brother Cane/Alice Cooper), have set about creating a sound respectful of Lizzy's heritage, yet individual enough that Black Star Riders have their own identity. "Bound For Glory" announced the band in style, while "Soldierstown" and "Kingdom Of The Lost" showed the powerhouse duo Gorham and Johnson have become. The rhythm section of bassist Robbie Crane (Ratt/Lynch Mob) and drummer Jimmy DeGrasso (Y&T/Megadeth) kept everything nailed to the floor, while offering enough finesse to do the Lizzy numbers "Emerald", "Jailbreak" and "Rosalie" proud. However the true focal point of the band is Warwick, his aggressive enthusiasm irresistible and his Irish drawl simply perfect for truly superb renditions of "The Boys Are Back In Town" and the closing "Whiskey In The Jar", where the singer also added some cracking acoustic guitar. With the likes of "The Killer Instinct" and "Judas" in their armoury of songs, the future looks bright for this three guitar attack outfit and there's no doubt that Black Star Riders first visit to Scottish soil was a complete triumph.

Europe have not only been enjoying a renaissance since their 2004 reformation, but also a slow steady reinvention from the keyboard led anthem makers who had a handful of 80s hits, into a full on heavy rock band of real substance. It was this side of the band which got an airing tonight, only five of the fourteen numbers aired coming from before their split and reunion. Interestingly that decision proved a challenge for some of the Europe faithful, with the likes of "Carrie", "Cherokee" and "Girl From Lebanon" nowhere to be found. Instead, five songs from the just released War Of Kings album were well received by the Black Star Riders followers who hadn't expected such a full force heavy riff machine. The album title track opened the set in mighty fashion, "Hole In My Pocket" following it up nicely as it illustrated immediately that this was not going to be a greatest hits set. A stunning romp through "Last Look At Eden" kept the intensity levels unbelievably high, before the first old track, "Wasted Time" from Wings Of Tomorrow, showed that even when the back catalogue was plundered, it was as likely to be a deep album cut as a chart topping smash. John Norum was on top form, his guitar histrionics a constant wonder, while Joey Tempest affirmed his status as one of the hardest working frontmen in rock. A tendency to allow a lull to form between songs did bog things done mid-set, Tempest showing his (ahem) grasp of Scottish slang as his band mates retuned and swapped guitars. Although a mighty rendition of "Superstitious" recaptured the missing momentum. Including the likes of the thunderous "The Beast", the gyrating "Firebox" and strutting "Riches To Rags" made it abundantly clear how uncompromising Europe can be, the trio of songs a collection of humongous guitars, mountainous keyboards and bombastic bass. Although the addition of the refined stomp of "Praise You" proved just how diverse this band can be. "Rock The Night" provided a rare link to this band's illustrious past, before the unmistakable keyboard build of "The Final Countdown" brought a great night to a superb crescendo.

Interestingly, as they left the ABC (at only 10.10pm!), it seemed to be the Black Star Riders fans who were most impressed by Europe, many commenting just how surprised they were that Europe were this heavy and this good live. That said - and good though Europe were - Black Star Riders every so slightly stole the day. However the real winners were those in attendance who got to see three great bands in top form - well, those who don't actually have to attend their work before going to a midweek gig in Glasgow did anyway…

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