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Black Star Riders to raise hell at Cleveland Agora May 27th

Black Star Riders to play Cleveland Agora May 27, 2014.
Black Star Riders to play Cleveland Agora May 27, 2014.
Nuclear Blast / Gil Elvgren

It was inevitable: Black Star Riders had to happen.

Black Star Riders headline Cleveland Agora on May 27, 2014.
Robert John

To cheekily opine that “The Boys are Back in Town” wouldn’t be telling the whole story.

Rising from the ashes of Thin Lizzy, the Riders first assembled years ago to further the tradition of that classic Irish-American rock band live in concert, with Lizzy guitarist Scott Gorham heading up the charge. A cast of talented (and experienced) musicians answered the call, joining the California string-picker in concert with Lizzy drummer Brian Downey and keyboardist Darren Wharton on faithful recreations of barn-burning albums like Nightlife, Jailbreak, Bad Reputation, and Renegade.

The band traversed the globe with Judas Priest in 2011—and practically turned Cleveland’s Quicken Loans Arena upside-down with its ballsy, spot-on covers (and a couple originals).

But Downey and Wharton no longer wanted to commit to marathon tours, and latter-day Lizzy recruits Daman Johnson (guitar) and Ricky Warwick (vocals) were itching to write and record new material. Gorham and the guys agreed a name change was in order. It seemed the right thing to do, given the infusion of fresh blood, and the fact that the Thin Lizzy moniker hadn’t appeared on new album sleeve since 1983’s Thunder and Lightning.

Watch the official video for “Kingdom of The Lost:”

Also of no small consideration was the notion—on the part of both band and audience—that the studio incarnation of Thin Lizzy effectively died in 1986 with founder Phil Lynott, whose distinct voice and muscular bass powered the band for fifteen years. The Lizzy of the ‘90s and ‘00s existed en homage to Lynott and his fans, a supremely effective “tribute” act boasting surviving members.

A new Lizzy album without Lynott just seemed, well… inconceivable.

So Gorham and the gang stepped out from the shadow, soldiering into the unknown with a batch of nascent songs and a conviction borne of their collective tenures in prior bands. Naming themselves after a fictitious gang appearing in the 1993 cowboy flick Tombstone, the Black Star Riders shacked up in L.A. with producer Kevin Shirley (Led Zeppelin, Rush, Aerosmith) and knocked out twelve stellar songs in as many days.

Watch the official video for “Hey Judas:”

Longtime Lizzy bassist Marco Mendoza (Ted Nugent, Lynch Mob, Blue Murder) joined Gorham, Warwick, and Johnson in sessions, cementing the selections with his distinctive low-end grooves. Drummer Jimmy DeGrasso (Dokken, Y&T, RATT) likewise earned bona fide BSR membership status after stepping in for the departing Downey.

The resulting disc, All Hell Breaks Loose, firmly establishes the band's here-and-now identity even as it celebrates its roots. It’s a musical about-face that finds Gorham and friends anticipating the future in the most literal sense—by having the reinvigorated lineup commit original tracks to tape, for posterity and in perpetuity—rather than trade exclusively on the past. Immediate and energetic, the songs on All Hell could easily stand against else on modern radio. Still, that old Celtic rock vibe remains, thanks to Gorham / Johnson’s twin guitar attack and Warwick’s Irish accent.

The album sleeve art—by legendary pinup artist Gil Elvgren—captures the spirit of the music in visual form: A curvaceous brunette (lust, ardor) smiles teasingly from the bullet-riddled (combat experience) fuselage (height, high velocity) of a steel-grey bomber (explosive power). Twenty-one tiny silhouette bombs grace the lower left corner, suggesting the number of successful drops while giving nod to Gorham’s other band—21 Guns.

All hell just might break loose when Black Star Riders headline The Cleveland Agora May 27th. Fans who’ve already witnessed the Warwick-fronted band need no further convincing, but the curious uninitiated will be impressed by original numbers “Bound for Glory,” “Bloodshot,” “Kingdom of the Lost,” and “Kissing the Ground.”
Who knows? That night there might just be a “Jailbreak”—and you’ll want to be around.

Tickets—a paltry $17.00—are available now:

Black Star Riders will head back to the studio in Dublin this fall to record the next album with Warwick’s producer / friend Joe Elliott, who moonlights in a little group of his own (Def Leppard). Ronan McHugh will occupy the engineer’s seat; he logged time tracking Warwick’s other band, The Almighty.

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