You always remember your first time. For Black Star Riders, their inaugural U.S. concert in the new era of Thin Lizzy took place Thursday night at the Aztec Theatre. And those in attendance who helped provide a more intimate setting than expected will likely not forget it anytime soon either.
The band of Ricky Warwick (vocals), guitarists Scott Gorham and Damon Johnson, bassist Marco Mendoza and drummer Jimmy DeGrasso decided to continue under a new moniker because of the desire to make new music separate from Thin Lizzy out of respect for late original frontman Phil Lynott.
Black Star Riders released debut album All Hell Breaks Loose last summer, an 11-song effort infused with that unmistakable Thin Lizzy mixture of rocking songs, and heavy and melodic lead guitars supplemented with bluesy attitude. For those lucky enough to witness BSR's first U.S. show, the set couldn't have been more balanced -- 10 Thin Lizzy classics interwoven with nine of the 11 tunes that make up the new album. BSR opened the evening with the new title track while songs such as Kingdom of the Lost, Bloodshot and Bound For Glory meshed with Lizzy tunes (see setlist in slideshow, top left, and click on the video box for SAMME footage of the two encores).
Thin Lizzy's previous appearance in San Antonio came during another U.S. tour launch. The band opened for Judas Priest's "Epitaph" tour in October 2011 at the AT&T Center along with Black Label Society (see SAMME coverage at the links in blue at bottom). Since that time, the band became Black Star Riders, released its debut album, added DeGrasso on drums and eschewed the need for a keyboardist.
Warwick, a Scotsman who is the only non-American in the group, made himself right at home, confidently directing the audience and often ending songs with his fist held high while moving around freely and enthusiastically on stage. Black Star Riders had spent most of the week in Austin rehearsing for the tour, and it was easy to see that the chance to unveil its show for an American crowd merely complemented the band's tightness as a unit.
Most of the members have starred in other groups, making Black Star Riders arguably the most veteran-laden "new band" on the music scene. Mendoza counts Thin Lizzy, Whitesnake and Blue Murder as part of his pedigree, while DeGrasso has been behind the kit for Y&T, Megadeth and Alice Cooper. Johnson (Thin Lizzy, Alice Cooper, Brother Cane) may come across as the most unassuming and most lesser-known, if you will, of the group. But his guitar licks were loud, flawless and numerous as he and Gorham -- who's been in Thin Lizzy since the mid-'70s -- split lead duties more evenly than may have been anticipated.
San Antonio resident Ruben V began the night by unleashing a stellar mix of rock, blues and flamenco-type percussion blending with regular drums to provide a solidly diverse warm-up.
If you missed Black Star Riders performing Thin Lizzy favorites such as Jailbreak, The Boys Are Back In Town, Whiskey In The Jar and Rosalie, fear not. They're headlining Day 1 of the four-day Republic of Texas Biker Rally at the Travis County Expo Center in Austin on June 12, giving fans another chance to hear a Thin Lizzy classic written with Texas in mind -- Cowboy Song.
Reverend Horton Heat is headlining June 13. Doing the honors June 14 will be Sammy Hagar supported by San Antonio/Los Angeles band Heaven Below. Tickets are good for all four days and can be purchased here.
Stay tuned for an SAMME "Into The Pit" interview with Black Star Riders from the rally. For related coverage, click on the "Suggested" links in blue below.
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