London: Kentish Town Forum – 17 March 2017
BSR are clearly not afraid of competition as they picked two bands for support that really know how to Rock. Nothing lame in the house tonight!
Gun's set is full of all their own toe-tapping infectious hits, with Cameo's 'Word Up' making an early appearance as now a favourite in the set. Not reliant on image, they get the crowd pogoing from the off with sheer power of their songs and down to earth approach with the crowd.
We get an early sneak preview of Ricky Warwick as he accepts a punter's award for best album for 'Heavy Fire'. He is quick to point out that it means all the more to him as it's based on votes from the public!
Backyard Babies take up the baton and run with it like screaming Bezerkers. They add a streak of Scandinavian cool as they start up with their great recent track 'Thirteen Or Nothing'. Dregen is all subversive hoodie and legs akimbo with jumping forward kicks, addressing the crowd frequently and ensuring the energy remains high. Vocalist Nicke Borg assures the crowd that he'll be enjoying St Patrick's Day with Warwick who'll be taking care of him later and that London is special to Backyard Babies as they launch into the classics "for all those who were with us in the nineties". Vestiges of Glam remain in streaks of eyeliner and diamanté cowboy buckles, but this is now ninety percent dripping in authentic diesel, sweat and blood, thus making for good solid Rock and Roll!
However, it is Scott Gorham's birthday and nothing will take Black Star Rider's crown this evening. With well-deserved confidence they launch into the title track from the new album 'Heavy Fire' This is honestly the best I've seen them and the atmosphere and energy is intense and kept high by Warwick's masterful working of the crowd from the off. Naturally oozing testosterone, his sheer and genuine benevolent attitude towards the crowd makes him one of the most well-loved vocalists around. The passion of his delivery is one of a man on a mission, the kind of rallying cry of a man singing for a cause which has inspired crowds for centuries. Underrated possibly by the press, his voice is soulful, beautifully rounded and mellow for softer tracks like 'Cold War Love' and always bang on while he throws his mike stand around like a baton with one hand. His voice also effortlessly meets the challenge of faster tracks and the greater exertions like 'All Hell Breaks Loose' and 'Who Rides The Tiger'. Bouncing around with bassist Robbie Crane on 'Bound For Glory', he looks thirty-five at the most; I guess doing what you love will keep you young!
Gorham produces startling solos which cut through the sound of the rest of the band like a rapier commanding attention and awe. He may look older but his solos still bite like a snake. During 'Hoodoo Voodoo' he makes his guitar sing echoing the vocal which reminded a little of California Jam era Ritchie Blackmore. Unbelievably fast in 'Who Rides The Tiger' he keeps pace in a race in the ether with Damon Johnson. Johnson bangs his heart at the crowd during 'When The Night Comes In' where we are treated to beautiful harmonies which sound exactly like the record, despite the complication of reproducing this on stage. Overjoyed, the crowd break into a "Happy Birthday" sing-along in the break for Gorham unprompted. He smiles genuinely pleased at the crowd's affection. Age is not slowing him down and guitar breaks like those in 'Thinking About You Could Get Me Killed' literally cut the air with the impact of a knife. In 'Testify Or Say Goodbye' he punches the air, clearly enjoying Rocking out with the band and his continued appetite in this regard augurs well for their future. This attitude is echoed by Warwick's comments to the crowd that the band "just got started".
While this is a set mostly made up of Black Star Riders songs, the crowd are treated to Thin Lizzy's 'Boys are Back In Town' with Gorham and Johnson doing a two guitar dance and their sheer joy shines through. It is lovely to see a band perform a classic and love it as much as the crowd. Warwick warmly thanks the audience at the end. It is great to see a really human band relate to fans, interact and communicate without being fucked up by life, the universe and everything. Staying true to what matters, men like this built nations, taking hearts and minds along the way. Heroes are an overused word, but Black Star Riders have not forgotten that the foundation of everything is the crowd. What you give out you receive. It was great to see them get their dues tonight!
Words and photos: Dawn Osborne