Teaming up with Scott Gorham in first Thin Lizzy and subsequently Black Star Riders seems to have led to a real rejuvenation for one time The Almighty main-man Ricky Warwick and ex-Alice Cooper and Brother Cane guitarist Damon Johnson. The pair not only make up two thirds of the BSR guitar attack – and Warwick sings – but they have also played a huge role in the song writing team which has resulted in two lauded albums. So when BSR had a couple of weeks of downtime between a tour and some festival shows, the obvious thing for the pair to do was put their feet up and relax. However never a duo set for the obvious, some impromptu acoustic shows were hastily booked, social medialy promoted and, amazingly given the short time between announcement and the shows, well attended. Hence the utterly rammed Bannerman's in Edinburgh was the third night of a nine leg tour, the pair supported by Don Mercy of punk band Yorkshire Rats, who provided a short set.
The affable, chatty, Mercy too was in acoustic mode, although in the end his self deprecating demeanour left you wanting to like him more than the single paced and rather blatantly worded songs allowed. However with the crowd determined to have fun, he received a good reception before the main pair hit the small stage for what proved to be two hours of mirth, merriment and music.
The Alice Cooper classic "18" was the surprise opener, Johnson immediately impressing with his excellent voice, before the more expected Lizzy number, "Are You Ready" brought Warwick to the mic. From there we were Black Star Riding, "Judas" preceded by the pair laughing that their missing guitar-mate Gorham likes his on stage volume LOUD! The stories and jokes came thick and fast as we were treated to Lizzy's "Jailbreak" and "Dancing In The Moonlight", Eddie Cochrane's "Summertime Blues" and BSR's "Gabrielle"; although the biggest shock came as Warwick actually removed his sunglasses for the first time in around 20 years! So surprised were we all that Johnson once more had to step forward, "Pontiac" from his solo album Release, a real highlight, before Warwick composed himself with his 'safety song' – something he described as a number he could knock out no matter how the worse for wear he was (although he wasn't!) - "Three Sides To Every Story".
"Bound For Glory" was next, it being the song this pair composed on their first day writing together; something made all the more amazing when you consider it became the first BSR's single, and that they had to convince Gorham it wasn't rubbish! Then "Free n' Easy" pleased The Almighty diehards, while "Borderline", "Shangri La" and "Blindsided" showed once again the strength of the pair's BSR material and just what a phenomenal lead guitarist Johnson is, even on acoustic. Not an easy thing to to.
The crowd were lapping it up and with the set being made up as the show went along, Motorhead's irresistible "Ace Of Spades" made a surprise appearance, while "The Boy Are Back Are In Town" had the crowd singing the guitar lines louder than the pair could play them! "King Of The Lost", introduced with a chuckle as a Swedish/Irish folk song, was played as a fitting tribute to the much missed Big Country/Skids mainman Stuart Adamson, as the sweaty crowd paid their own respects to one of Scotland's musical heroes. "The Killer Instinct" was revealed as the final BSR offering of the night, Warwick's solo "Presbyterian Homesick Blues" leading into the Johnny Cash track "Cocaine Blues", before the made famous by Thin Lizzy, "Whiskey In The Jar" caused the unbelievably sweltering crowd to out-sing the guitars once more. Just as it seemed it was over, the evergreen Bruce Springsteen song "Born To Run" wrung every last drop of energy from the audience, resulting in an ovation that would have put a venue twice Bannerman's size to shame.
For some Ricky Warwick and Damon Johnson are mere sidemen in Scott Gorham's latest venture, however the pair's songwriting and musical skill shone so brightly in this setting that it's impossible to deny they are integral to Black Star Riders' success. Every now and again you stumble across a show with little pomp and ceremony which turns into one of the musical highlights of the year. Tonight was one of those shows.