O2 Shepherds Bush Empire 21st March 2015
When Black Star Riders and Europe announced they were sharing the bill on their new tour it would have been enough to make any hardened classic rock fan shriek like a girl; but the news that the last two nights of the tour had extended set times would have been cause for the green eyed rock monster to appear in many fans who missed out! Both bands have released their new albums in the last month so this was a chance to show off the new material rather than just perform tracks from the glory days – of course neither band would be allowed out of the venue alive if they didn't play a few old faves.
The last time I saw Black Star Ridersat the Legends of Rock Festival, I was disappointed with their performance – they lacked the spark that they seemed to have on their first tour and seemed a little weary. However, I am happy to say that this time they have got their mojo back and gave an incredible performance.
Working with producer Nick Raskulinecz for album number 2 has meant that the bands sound has become heavier, allowing some distance from Thin Lizzy. New bass player Robbie Crane certainly relished playing the new material and the fans seem to like it too, putting the album at #13 in the UK charts. The new songs including, Soldierstown, Finest Hour, and The Killer Instinct really benefited from a live mix and were well received by the rock hungry crowd.
Taking over from a legendary front man is never an an easy task, just ask Adam Lambert, but Ricky Warwick has grown in confidence as the edgy front man of Black Star Riders. He has managed to make those old Lizzy songs his own, and retained the memory of Lynott in the new ones, for that he certainly deserves some praise. Scott Gorham and Damon Johnson on lead guitars are still responsible for that iconic sound and do a terrific job throughout and milk Whisky In The Jar for every last drop of the hard stuff.
Later in the concert Ricky thanks BBC Radio 2 for their support and whilst some bands may think being branded 'Radio 2 Rock' lacks street cred, any radio station that has The Who, AC/DC, Deep Purple, Iron Maiden and Zeppelin on their playlist is alright by me! He also responds to the comment that will surely haunt Gene Simmons, that rock is dead – of course the band and the audience know that it is very much alive – at least for tonight!
Europe might be best known for 'that song', but like Black Star Riders they proved that they can still produce some great material. Their opening track, War Of Kings has an air of Maiden about it, which
considering both bands are influenced by Deep Purple and UFO is no great surprise. Singer Joey Tempest is also just as charismatic and energetic as Bruce Dickinson, but with better teeth! Tempest jokes that his seven year old son (and the band) find his moves on stage embarrassing, don't worry Joe, we think they're alright!– where he gets the energy from, we're not sure, it must be something in the mineral water he knocks back during the set.
Their new material from War Of Kings has a nod to the 70's whilst retaining their unique style and a contemporary edge. Praise You is a Purple inspired track, Days Of Rock N Roll and Hole In My Pocket are steamroller tunes that have an unstoppable force behind them, thanks to Ian Haugland and John Norum. The hits were dotted throughout the set, Cherokee, Rock The Night, Carrie and of course 'that song' finished the show. Ok, I have to be honest even though it's overplayed, The Final Countdown it's still a great track and a terrific end to an amazing show.
I'm not going to enter into a heavy discussion about who put on a better show; Both bands were great and I enjoyed them equally, although very different in performance styles. That said, I was pleased to see BSR back on thunderous form. Having never seen Europe before (to my shame) I was surprised by their ability to transcend their 80s rock days and bring a lively and fresh sound to the music.
No encore for either band but you can forgive them that as they already played a long and energetic set, you couldn't complain you didn't get your monies worth!